If it seems like we've been hearing about how medicine is going to be more personalized in "the future," it's because we have been hearing about it, and not seeing it, for decades now. If you're like me, you still have a folder stuffed full of a bunch of papers labeled "health care"— in my case from the two countries, and three states I've lived in during the past 15 years. I'm not alone—many Americans move; for jobs, for love, and for personal reasons. I've seen 7 different doctors in that time and the only thing holding all my health history together is that ratty folder. Not exactly the high-tech medicine we've been waiting for, despite having some of the most expensive health care in the world.
If we can't have something as basic as a centralized health care information repository, we may at least be able to move forward in another way—personalized medicine based on your individual DNA. Which sounds pretty awesome to me—I'd love to know what problems might arise as I grow older. Will I have macular degeneration like my grandmother? A bad heart like my father? Or did I get unlucky and somehow inherit a gene for cancer (even though it doesn't run in my family?). I have no idea, and like many people, only know the health history for some—but not all—of my relatives. Which means there's probably holes in my knowledge.
A new company, BaseHealth, is tapping into the consumer interest in preventing disease by using the same kind of technology that 23andMe, the company famously shut down by the FDA, used. 23andMe was barred by the government from giving medical information directly to consumers, because the agency saw it as "intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease."
So BaseHealth is taking that same information (now available at a lower cost than ever before thanks to companies like 23andMe), and making that same info available to doctors. Their platform, Genophen, will integrate medical records (those who do have electronic medical records will have to wait until later for that), lifestyle information provided by the patient, and genetic information (including predispositions to certain kinds of diseases) to inform their health plans for specific patients.
By including a doctor in the health care equation, BaseHealth avoids the problem 23andMe had with the FDA.
According to the BaseHealth site, "Genomic and non-genomic data are most useful in concert. For the first time, patients can responsibly explore their genomic data alongside clinical and behavioral analysis, in ongoing consultation with their doctor."
If that doesn't sound all that revolutionary to you, imagine this: At a visit to your doctor, she pulls up Genophen, with all your data loaded, including DNA details. Then she inputs a lifestyle change—like, say losing 40 pounds, or quitting smoking. Then the doc can show you what those changes might me for your particular set of disease risk factors and what the change could mean for your long-term health.
Basehealth's site says that 70% of diseases are preventable—with a look inside our DNA, we can more effectively prevent them, and take a lot of the guesswork out of health care.
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