The Megatrends - The Future of Medicine

Over the next decade, medical care will improve rapidly and dramatically, thanks to advances in genomics, stem cells, vaccines, medical devices, imaging and new approaches in the operating room.

What will these megatrends mean to you?

Genomics will allow tomorrow’s physician to predict at birth or before what major diseases a person is likely to develop, such as coronary artery disease. Vaccines will be created specifically to treat an individual person’s cancer. Stem cells will be used to regenerate a specific tissue lost to trauma or disease.

Surgery will be based on the individual’s own CAT scan image which will be used first to simulate that individual’s proposed operation, then to practice it to perfection and then to program a robot to assist. Drugs will be created to attack a specific target and will be prescribed for the individual patient based on genomic knowledge of their disease and how their body will respond to the specific drug – more effective, less side effects and much safer.

Preventive medicine will advance rapidly as genomic information tells what an individual is likely to develop over time. Then the physician can prescribe a personalized preventive program for that person such as life style changes to prevent coronary artery disease or early institution of colonoscopy for the person at very high risk of early colon cancer. Vaccines will be available to prevent increasing numbers of serious infectious disease but also to prevent atherosclerosis, some cancers, and can be used to help treat or prevent some chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and even drug addiction.

Surgical advances will allow repairs never available before such as replacing heart valves with minimally invasive surgery rather than today’s’ open surgery with heart lung bypass. Stem cells will mean that a pancreas deprived of its islet cells can be replaced with cells that will create insulin as the body requires. Stem cells will also repair the heart after a heart attack. Organ transplants will no longer depend another person’s else’s death; rather the organ will be produced in a pig raised specifically to have an organ that will not cause rejection after transplant – more functional and no need for anti-rejection drugs.

Your medical information will finally all be digitized and instantly available any time and any place either via the internet or placed on a chip embedded in an ID card in your wallet. This will include not only your doctor’s notes but copies of your images from radiology, colonoscopy, or surgery along with a base line CAT scan taken at age 18 that can be compared to later when trauma or disease strikes. It will also include your entire genomic information. And it will be available only with your release of the password.

Finally, medicine will become truly safe. A full change in culture will make safety issue number one and this will be augmented by new technologies that will assist the healthcare provider to make care safe. Included will be access to your medical information at a moments notice, use of new drugs and vaccines designed for you based on your genomic information, use of robots in surgery that cannot make errors and the use of simulation to assist doctors learn new techniques and procedures.

The result will be a new era in medical care, one where the patient comes first, is safe, can be assured that a medicine will work without side effects, that surgery will be custom tailored and where real attention will be paid to preventing disease before it occurs.

Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D.

Last Modified: June 11, 2010


Copyright (c) Stephen C. Schimpff, MD