The cost of healthcare delivery continues to rise unabated due to many factors, estimated to be at least 10% year-on-year. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, such as newer medications where extensive research has been undertaken and new technology.
Costs aside, one can forsee that, in the near future, some trends in the way healthcare is provided, are emerging.
Take a look, for instance, at electronic health records – storing a patient’s medical history, medications, lab work and recent tests in the computer so that there is record sharing to improve safety and for convenience for patients. Throw away the thick patient folders and time-wasting in deciphering doctors’ handwriting!
Telehealth has also made great inroads, especially in rural or remote areas. Telecommunications technology (read ‘internet’) is used to provide and support in-home health care for those not easily reached.
Quite a new concept is that of the medical home, not a name for a building but more of a concept of medical care, where a primary care provider, like a GP,takes the lead on coordinating all aspects of a patient’s care, be it surgical wound dressings, flu shots, blood tests or emotional health. This avoids duplication of medications when a patient is seeing multiple doctors for various ailments.
Integrative medicine — The combining of conventional Western medicine with alternative treatments like acupuncture,homeopathic medicine have already entrenched themselves into some societies When conventional medicine doesn’t bring relief, more people are trying acupuncture, botanical remedies, dietary supplements or stress reduction techniques for help, thus addressing the patient as a whole person, not a person suffering from just one disease.
Of all recent trends I’ve noticed, the one that has the greatest potential, to my mind, is individualised medicine – the tailoring of treatment for a disease to each patient’s specific needs based on that patient’s gene profiling. After all, it does make sense – one pill does not fit all – that individual variations make it necessary to tailor doses and type of medications to one’s genetic makeup. By identifying the genetic makeup of an individual, doctors and reduce or increase doses of a particular medicine to give maximum effect minus the side-effects. In some leading medical centres, like Mayo Clinic, there are even Centres for Individualized Medicine. See here.