Preventive Medicine Blog Series - Part V: Diagnostics

by Emily Podmore, July 2nd, 2013
Most people know someone who has either had cancer or been affected by it, and in most cases, the earlier the disease is detected, the better the outcome. What if we could diagnose diseases before they manifest themselves-through predictive diagnostics?

Preventive medicine covers everything from health and nutrition preventing obesity to more complicated procedures to reduce the risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. A huge part of preventive medicine is the transition from curing and treating the symptoms and disease to predicting and diagnosing the disease before it gets that far.

Trends in preventive medicine are mirrored by growth in the practice of predictive diagnostics, which in turn, has led to an increased focus on personalized medicine. Because of the use of technology and informatics, advancements in genetics and proteomics, and greater emphasis on personalized medicine, doctors are able to mark patients with high risks for chronic degenerative diseases (CDDs) and other conditions, diagnosing the illness before the patient is actually "sick."

More advanced technology has become commonplace in every field, and medicine is no exception. The use of cloud technology to keep track of patients' files electronically allows doctors to pull up a patient's history and medical information on command, while more precise and efficient medical equipment can achieve advanced results that aid in assessing a patient's risk for illness.

Furthermore, researchers use genetics to collect information on the genes that are associated with specific disease risks, particularly CDDs like cancer and heart disease. The goal is to identify non-symptomatic individuals who have a high susceptibility for the disease and can be treated through preventive medicine or early intervention. With the ability to recognize these individuals comes an increased use of preventive measures and ultimately better outcomes. When diseases are predicted before they hit, the treatment options are wider and tend to be less debilitating. Proteomics utilizes proteins that are known to be associated with diseases as markers in a similar manner; they, too, allow researchers to earmark patients who have a high risk for a disease, making way for preventive intervention.

Because the practice of predictive diagnostics allows doctors and healthcare professionals to identify individuals' risks for disease before onset, practices have become more focused on personalized medicine, which opens the door for additional innovation and technologies that allow a patient to monitor and take preventive measures. This opportunity for innovation calls upon researchers and biotech companies alike to think outside of curative treatment and focus efforts on methods through which individuals can control or even prevent the onset of a disease.

Whether it be gene therapy, a new vaccination, or new personal technology, it will become increasingly crucial to develop innovative personalized care as predictive diagnostics takes over the structure of the healthcare system.

(For additional trends in Preventive Medicine see: Here)