What Does “Personalized Health Care” Mean to You?

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This morning, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation given by Clay Marsh, MD. and senior associate vice president for research in the Office of Health Sciences, vice dean for research in the College of Medicine and executive director of the OSU Center for Personalized Health Care.

marsh_clayDr. Marsh was giving a presentation about personalized health care.  It’s a bit of an industry buzz word, and everyone wants to be a part of it, but the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a good summary here. To boil down the premise of PHC, it is delivering the right medicine to the right person at the right time. Science has moved quickly to understand our genetic makeup… it has decoded our genome and is in the process of understand how all of these pieces are linked, how they interact, and how they make us… well, us.

The science from there is to hopefully map what we look like if/when we are genetically healthy.

Genetically speaking what I look like is different than what this guy looks like (apart from the other and obvious differences), though, we may both be genetically healthy.  If we can understand what each person looks like genetically healthy, then maybe we can pinpoint the genes/proteins that signal we may be getting (or be predisposed to getting) sick.  If we are able to do those two things, the last and final piece of the science is to figure out how to get us back to our genetically healthy person.   It’s going to take the smartest people in the world to figure out.

This is the future of medicine.

However, Dr. Marsh doesn’t think it all revolves around science.  After all, we are dealing with human beings.  In order to understand what they are made of genetically, we need to understand more than just their blood type, we need to know what their environment (think air, stress, educational level) is like.  We need to know their diet.  Those are much more social factors.   Dr. Marsh knows that to learn these things about people health care practioners will need to stop doing business as usual.  We need to listen and talk to people as individuals.  We must open the channels of communication that our patients already feel comfortable using.  Only then can we understand the whole person in THEIR environment.  Only then will our patients share the information we need to be able to personalize health care.

So how do we do this?  Dr. Marsh thinks we need to start having more fun.  Of course, I instantly think “social media” because there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not having fun with what I do.  How do we translate that to conversation/communication/connection with our patients?  How do we prove to our customers that we aren’t just in it for the money? How can we have fun with health care and not just tell you what you should do so you don’t die?

Dr. Marsh believes that President Obama’s plan to fix how we fund health care will be a big first step.  Instead of focusing on funding disease-based care (pay for it when they get sick), we believe that Obama’s plan will focus on wellness based maintenance (spend money to learn what keeps people healthy and then keep them healthy).  Personalized health care.

So what do you think?  Do you think it is possible to create enough disruptive innovation to turn health care and the way we deliver health care around so that it is truly personalized… scientifically AND socially?  What will it take?

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