In an era where healthcare is increasingly personalised, the focus on longevity and age-tech has never been more critical, especially for high-performance individuals and executives. One can only look at the current Apple CEO Tim Cook and his predecessor, the late Steve Jobs for their unique take on managing their health. But as we face an increasing aging population in the Western world, shouldn’t all individuals, irrespective of their income, get access to personalised healthcare that supports their wellbeing? This blog explores the importance of participative medicine and the technologies that underpin it.
Before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs used a host of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies, including acupuncture, botanicals, and strict dietary regimens. Throughout his life he ate mostly vegetarian diets, followed by strict vegan dishes with superfoods in his later years. After his cancer diagnosis, he took to fasting and consuming fruit juices, alongside other types of therapies, available only to high net worth individuals.
It is no secret that the greater one’s income, the lower one’s likelihood of disease and premature death. Studies show that Americans at all income levels are less healthy than those with incomes higher than their own. Not only is income (the earnings and other money acquired each year) associated with better health, but wealth (net worth and assets) affects health as well.
Though it is easy to imagine how health is tied to income for the very poor or the very rich, the relationship between income and health is a gradient: they are connected incrementally at every level of the economic ladder. Middle-class Americans are healthier than those living in or near poverty, but they are less healthy than the upper class. Even wealthy Americans are less healthy than those Americans with the highest of incomes.
However, there is a clear need to shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to personalised health management that the average individual receives. This shift from population health management to individualised health strategies recognises that one size does not fit all in healthcare. Smart hospitals and advanced health technologies are at the forefront of this transformation, leveraging AI, digital twins, and genomics to tailor health interventions to each person's unique needs.
The rise of personalised care
Countries within the Gulf and developing regions outside of Western Europe are pioneering these advancements towards smart medicine by utilising their less complex, more agile healthcare systems as a foundation for innovation. These nations are rapidly integrating cutting-edge technologies into their healthcare infrastructure, enabling them to leapfrog into the future of personalised medicine.
Recent advances in technology have made breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment modalities,but with an increase in overall health care cost. Innovative and cost-effective strategies are required to cater to the health care needs of people living in the GCC states. Policy makers are looking to prioritise and strengthen primary care as a matter of urgency and understand that with an increasing population, focusing on the individual is the main avenue for achieving this.
They aim to do this by leveraging advancements in longevity and age-tech, creating a futurewhere technology empowers everyone - and not just high-performance individuals - to live healthier, longer lives.
Technological Advancements in Personalised Health
Personalised medicine has as its primary goal building a foundation for actionable health management through a broad spectrum of information. Potential inputs for advancing precision medicine include longitudinal tracking of healthy individuals to better understand the transition from non-diseased to diseased states. More precisely, it aims to identify individuals at risk for disease and tailoring treatments is based on diverse and growing data sets from both individual trials and population-based studies.
The data flowing into precision medicine comes from genetic databases, medical records, tissue banks, and other clinical sources of “big data.” In parallel with our ability to gather an impressive amount of information from any given patient is the expansion of computing power and, with it, our analytical capabilities and ability to link data sets together to “make sense” of it. Precision medicine relies on large quantities of population-level data to help determine the appropriate treatment for an individual.
Digital Twins are another technological innovation that with change the scene of healthcare. They constitute virtual representations of real-world individuals created using computational models. In the modern day of man-machine interfaces and human-AI collaboration, Digital Twins constitute a crucial piece of developing technology, as they provide ways of interacting with, understanding, and manipulating real-world objects such as the human body, in a completely virtual space.
Genomics is yet another emerging trend in healthcare. Briefly put, genomics is the study of the genes in our DNA, their functions and their influence on the growth, development and working of the body – using a variety of techniques to look at the body’s DNA and associated compounds.
The UK is recognised worldwide as a leader in genomics and the unique structure of the NHS is allowing it to deliver these advances at scale and pace for the benefit of patient and their families. The objective is to harness the power of genomic medicine and science to improve the health of our population.
Smart Hospitals and Age-Tech
Hospitals today are going through a digital transformation as they embrace technological advances to help improve patient care. While many of the endpoint solutions hospitals bring new levels of precision and efficiency to clinical processes, integration across the hospital ecosystem and all points of care delivery—from registration to imaging, the operating room to the nurses’ station—is critical to fully realise the benefits available from a connected, intelligent hospital.
Smart hospitals are taking a holistic approach to infrastructure modernisation, integrating digital and physical assets in a unified framework that ties the institution’s various clinical and business workflows and assets together. As a result, smart hospitals gather expansive data access across the health ecosystem, from hospital to clinic to provider and beyond, as well as accelerated clinical workflows, streamlined patient journeys, and the ability to deploy new lifesaving innovations as they are brought to market.
Another key trend that has emerged in the last few years is Agetech – that is digital tech that’s built around the needs and wants of older adults, while including them in the design process. In the broader sense, Agetech could be any type of technology that improves the lives of aging adults.
This means that a care-coordination app, being used by several family members to coordinate who’s dropping grandma off at the movies to meet with her friends this week, also falls into the Age Tech category, together with a smart pill box that will remind her to take her heart medication and vitamins.
Tech adoption and internet use by older adults have been on the rise for several years. Baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011, and they are the first generation of older adults that experienced the digital revolution first-hand. They can afford to spend money on technology, but they’re not going to spend it on products that don’t fit their lifestyle and self-image.
This is why we believe that we’re going to see a lot more tech products trying to get to those boomer dollars and hopefully, we’ll see wi-fi in every home, since that’s a basic requirement for a lot of products and services.
Challenges and Ethical Considerations
Despite the high-level political endorsement, personalised medicine remains elusive, and several challenges persist. These include establishing a robust evidence base, changing practice within existing health services, and facilitating an increasingly participatory approach.
Other challenges come from the newly emerging field of big data and AI, where individuals now have to consent to vast amounts of information about their bodies and lifestyles to be collected. What’s more, making sure that harvested information is kept safe and only used for healthcare purposes and not marketing ploys remains a concern for many.
A key characteristic of personalised medicine is the paradigm shift to the participatory healthcare model. Facilitating greater awareness of available choices and providing increased control over health management creates novel pressures on health services and health professionals, but also imposes new duties upon individuals.
Patients and the public will need to commit to the systematic capture and sharing of clinical data to build and fine-tune the knowledge base. This commitment will extend both to routinely collected health data and to sharing anonymised information through big data initiatives.However, it is essential that we embrace technology to ensure health solutions are as dynamic and innovative as the individuals they serve – you, me and our loved ones, wherever they may find themselves in their health journey.
Discover how personalised healthcare is revolutionising wellness for everyone. Have a look at our predictions for the most important healthcare trends of the year to gain more insights into what you can expect in 2024: https://www.nuom.studio/trends.