The Promise of Exponential Medicine

By | October 27, 2016

xmed-2014-1The Exponential Medicine Conference, held in San Diego earlier this month, is always a fascinating dive into the increasing pace of medical innovation, ranging from biohacking, medical robotics, applying nanotechnology for cancer treatment, to how machine learning on millions of human genomes holds the promise of predicting disease before it starts.

The fast moving four days of expert talks, keynotes, and workshops by Daniel Kraft, Peter Diamandis, Mark Hyman, Moira Gunn, Amy Baxter, Arshya Vahabzadeh, Vinod Khosla, and many others yielded a number of themes and predictions of where and how medical technology will evolve over the next few decades. We can highlight a few themes on medical technology that will likely affect consumers by the year 2025:

Get Your DNA Map For (Almost) Free

As recently as 2007, it cost over $1 Million to sequence the entire human genome. In 2016 that cost has dropped to less than $1,000, with the future probability that sequencing your genome will be an included service as part of your chosen health plan.

ORIG3N, a medical genetics firm, collected DNA from more than 450 Exponential Medicine conference attendees to profile for unique genes, and unveiled the results in a quick two day turnaround. Here’s a sample of this author’s DNA profile:

origin-dna-result1

Looking ahead, a complete personal genome record in your health plan would allow for more accurate disease risk and prevention strategies, the ability to produce personalized medications (custom made for every individual), and much more.

There will also be a long list of legal, ethical, privacy, and DNA data security issues as we move into the “free” genome data world. Governments, companies, and other organizations around the world will struggle to keep up with these changes.

Every Home Can Be An Urgent Care Clinic

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Several companies are working on bringing the medical essentials of an urgent care clinic to the home, including FDA-cleared sensors, video links to physicians and hospitals, and interactive triage-ready user guides.

The clinic-in-a-box (or medical tricorder for Star Trek fans) is becoming reality due to miniaturization of medical-grade sensors into a more consumer ready format. 19 Lab’s Gale System and Cloud DX (pictured above) are two startups that are perfecting the first generation of home clinic systems.

The Psychiatrist Will See You Now, (Mostly) Online

It typically takes a month or more to schedule a face to face appointment with a psychiatrist. Given that most attempts at first time appointments for mental health reasons are done during an acute crisis situation, the long waiting time can be very frustrating.

psychiatrist-apps-online1The problem of getting in to see a psychiatrist is partly a supply issue (especially in sub-specialties like child & adolescent psychiatry), and partly a very inefficient scheduling & logistics process for in-person visits.

Enter online mental health video visits, and a slew of new mental health apps. Lantern and Better Help are two examples of mental health apps that are attracting interest as a new method for providing real time mental health care.

According to Arshya Vahabzadeh M.D., a psychiatrist and faculty instructor at Harvard Medical School, mental health apps hold great promise for addressing issues such as depression – a leading cause of global disability with an annual cost of over $1 Trillion, based on a recent WHO study.

The challenge both consumers and medical professionals face when choosing from these new mental health apps is a nearly complete lack of evidence based measures as to whether these apps are effective.

Moving ahead, a combination of slow (but generally reliable) randomized clinical trials for mental health apps, and some form of faster crowd sourced feedback on the apps could provide the answers.