A sweeping transformation of medicine has begun that will rival in importance the introduction of anesthesia or the discovery of the germ basis of infectious disease. It will change how patients and physicians interact. It will change medical research and therapy. “Sick care”—the current model of waiting for you to get sick and then trying to alleviate symptoms and make you well—will become true “health care,” where prevention is the mantra and driving force. Welcome to the world of digital medicine.
First and foremost, the digitalization of medicine will personalize health care: Treatment will be tailored to each person as a unique individual suffering a unique illness according to his or her genetic makeup. Currently, therapy is based on population statistics. Patients are separated into groups defined in various ways but usually by similar symptoms or by the results of basic lab tests (like cholesterol levels). These groups are then treated with drugs that may help many people, but not all of them, and often only a fraction of them. By incorporating information from an individual’s DNA, the data made available through digitalization will enable clinicians to match individuals with treatments. Only patients who will benefit will get a particular drug.