Saturday, May 29, 2010

Believe it or not good news: 4P medicine

The greatest contributors to the fiscal unsustainability of the U.S. federal government are its health care programs. The recent "fixes" passed by Congress do nothing to improve this and under any realistic analysis actually make the situation much worse. Growing health care costs are also -- obviously -- a major concern for those of us who pay for own own health care.

Suppose there was a way to improve health care by an order of magnitude, and at the same time make it less expensive, so much so that we might even reduce expenditures. Such a development would contribute enormously to individual human well-being, and would help solve our worldwide fiscal crises. Well, such a development is not only well under way, it is about to be implemented for the first time.

The development is 4P Medicine™, and it is about to be tested in a collaboration between the Institute for Systems Biology and Ohio State University, which will use it in providing health care to its 55,000 employees. 4P Medicine™ (yes, it's trademarked) stands for Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, and Participatory, and combines breakthroughs in genetics, computing, and mathematics to develop a completely new approach to medicine. Using an individual's genetic information, the 4P approach will predict problems years before they begin, and suggest approaches to prevent them from ever occurring. "Proactive" could easily be another "P" in list. My description here doesn't do it justice...check out the links. It reads like science fiction, but it is here today.

In many sectors, technological advance tends to reduce expenses; in health care technological advance has (allegedly) tended to increase them. (I am uncertain why developing a new but expensive life-saving technique is considered cost-increasing, if we are figuring costs properly -- but that's a topic for another post.) 4P Medicine has the potential to reverse this.

I have little hope that governments are going to become fiscally responsible or that they'll begin getting out of the way of entrepreneurs and innovators who could actually solve the problems we face. These are simply not in the personal interests of politicians and bureaucrats. My hope is that innovation will simply advance civilization faster than state action dismantles it. The development of 4P Medicine is an example of how this can happen, and why I am still optimistic about our future.

There's an excellent half-hour interview with Dr. Leroy Hood, the man behind 4P Medicine, available here on Yellowstone Public Radio. I highly recommend it!

The accompanying picture is a "walking" molecule, a development that has potential application in nano-computing. It has no direct connection to story, but it at least adds a bit of color to the page. And it certainly isn't unrelated. From the What's Next? blog (doesn't like links).

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