What is Patient Centric Medicine

As one of the founders of Sanguine BioSciences, I am incredibly passionate about Personalized Medicine.  But as a patient, I am so out-of-this-world EXCITED for this new era to be ushered in.  I feel like it can’t come soon enough!  In some ways it is already here and in other areas we have a ways to go.  But there is an aspect of Personalized Medicine (PM) that, as patients, we can be responsible for creating.  

Dr. Elias Zerhouni (I love the name!) used to be the Director of the NIH[1] and today he is President of Global R & D (Research & Discovery) for Sanofi[2].  He is a leader in the field of PM and, as the previous Director of the NIH, certainly plays an influential role in the world of medicine.  In an interview titled The Promise of Personalized Medicine, Dr. Zerhouni zeroes in on how the relationship between doctor and patient are changing.  He notes that with treatments becoming customized to an individual, the role of the patient also needs to change.

Dr. Zerhouni coins this new model for medicine as “patient-centric” in contrast to the current model of “doctor-centric.” 

There are four components of the future medical model that Dr. Zerhouni highlighted in his interview:  “predictive, personalized, preemptive, and participatory.”  What he calls “The Four P’s.”  The predictive and personalized aspects are what we as patients have to leave up to the researchers.  The preemptive and participatory is where we get to jump in! Yes that’s right, the future medical model requires OUR involvement.

This got me thinking…while we’re waiting for customized medications and more precise diagnostic tools, why not get the ball rolling on the rest of the future of medicine?  Patience isn’t exactly my greatest virtue, so let’s make the future happen now!

Dr. Collins playing Sweet Baby Jane withDavid Foster & Lionel Richie

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, (who, by the way, is secretly a great singer and musician, well maybe not so secret anymore…) shares how PM means more patient responsibility in an interview of his own titled The Future of Personalized Medicine.  Are you beginning to notice a trend here?  The leaders of the medical world, the people largely responsible for that little thing called The Human Genome Project, are moving full speed ahead toward PM.  And they are telling us that in order to keep the eye on the prize, they need US, the patients, to get involved.

In Dr. Collins’ interview, he provides ways that patients can already improve their personal treatment, for example by learning about their family medical history.  Taking a step like this would help you as a patient take part in the “preemptive” aspect of the new model.  Being able to share with your physician that you have a family history of breast cancer can better position him/her to screen you early on and hopefully catch something in time to provide effective treatment. 

Dr. Zerhouni also provides examples of how patients can usher in the participatory aspect of PM.  Some of his ideas can be done pretty simply actually.  For example, by educating ourselves once receiving a diagnosis or even helping a loved one learn more about their treatment we are participating in patient-centric medicine.  With the internet, all of us have access to more information and in turn, we can play a powerful role in advancing Personalized Medicine. 

I think it is so exciting to be alive at a time when the buzz all over the world is about creating better, much better, medications for each and every one of us.  The goals of perfecting diagnosis and targeting treatments to each individual only means a better quality of life for us all.  It is amazing that the professionals in the field finally realize how important we are as patients.  They now recognize that we are a crucial component of their ability to effectively provide healing and treatment.

I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the 2012 Milken Institute Global Conference where I met both of these research giants.  Speaking to them in person was incredibly inspiring because of how much they are doing to help me and my fellow patients.  But what was even more inspiring about this experience was how much they believe in my ability as a patient to change medicine as well.  Dr. Zerhouni and Dr. Collins believe in all of us, and let me tell you, when they talk, people listen.  Which means there are thousands of doctors and scientists in the making who also believe in us and respect us as partners in medicine.                  

My favorite part of the new medical model is that I don’t have to wait for a new medication to be discovered.  I feel like ever since my diagnosis, hoping for better treatment has just been a long waiting game.  At times I got really pessimistic about it, thinking I should just get used to my limitations as they are today because of how much longer it would take to have the promise of something better.  This is the beauty of the new model.  I love that I don’t have to wait on someone else to do something I don’t have the training to do.  In the new medical model based on Personalized Medicine, even as a patient without any competence as a scientist, I can take part in improving treatment for myself and others.  Not only can I, but I am expected to.  Our society is all about the DIY culture isn’t it?  Here’s your chance to Do It Yourself! 

So what are you waiting for?

[1] National Institutes of Health

[2] Sanofi advances the world of treatment in many ways with a special focus on streamlining the management of diabetes for patients.  Read more here http://en.sanofi.com/.  Myself and Sanguine are not affiliated with Sanofi.  This is simply my opinion of one company in the medical field.

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