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The Power of Personalization: Emerging Tech & Tailor-Made Healthcare


Lygeia Ricciardi, Chief Transformation Officer, Carium
Healthcare is evolving from one-size-fits-all to a more personalized approach. The potential benefits are both clinical and psychological. Personalization, along with empathy, can contribute to faster healing and healthier habits as people feel genuinely accepted and cared for.
 
One man’s emotional reaction to finding a “Band-Aid” that matched his skin tone went viral on Twitter earlier this year, illustrating the point that personalization in a healthcare context, even for something small, can tap into deep feelings. 
 
At CES 2019 last January I presented at the Digital Health Summit on the implications of several emerging technologies: augmented reality, 3D printing and blockchain. Since then I have been reflecting on one superpower these technologies share: the power of personalization.
 

Augmented Reality (AR)


Medical Education. Universities and healthcare organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic are using AR to teach healthcare providers and patients. Microsoft’s Hololens helps students to visualize the inside of the body and adjust the curriculum to meet their unique learning needs.
 


Blood Draws. Tools such as AccuVein are used internationally by clinicians to accurately identify the unique position of veins on a patient for the purpose of drawing blood.

Medication Management. Imagine looking at a medication package through an AR filter and seeing dosage, directions, and warnings particular to you, taking into account your existing medications and health history—maybe even updating content based on current environmental information such as pollen count. AugmentedReality.health is developing technology that could be used in this way.
 

3D Printing

 
Bone Replacement. In addition to helping bones heal through lightweight casts and orthotics, 3D printing can replace missing pieces of bone with the exact shapes, sizes, and textures needed. Companies such as the Argentinian Novax DMA specialize in 3D printing, including providing the software to manufacture this titanium cranial implant for a patient who required extensive surgery after a stroke.
 
Limbs with Personality. Imagine a limb replacement that extends not only your body but your personality. A video gamer chose an arm that shoots drones, while fashion model Kelly Knox prefers an elegant lucite limb through which the beat of her heart is visible to the outside world. The Alternative Limb Project incorporates 3D printing and other technologies to build prosthetic limbs that are as much art as science.

Photo of Kelly Knox used with permission.

Bioprinting with Live Cells. Imagine hand-held printers that surgeons can use to print live cells directly into your body to replace the loss of bones or soft tissue. Professor Gordon Wallace in Australia is among those leading research using stem cells that continue to grow and adapt after printing so they can mesh fully into individuals’ bodies.
 

Blockchain

 
Identity Management. Matching health records to the right person has become an increasingly important challenge. Poor identity management can compromise privacy and have serious negative health consequences, whether in clinical care or research. For example, if a patient is matched to the wrong record, they might receive a medication they are allergic to or a treatment that doesn’t take into account a prior health condition. Companies such as 4Medica are using blockchain to securely manage digital identities.
 
Recruitment for Clinical Trials. Imagine being easily matched to a clinical trial that is focused on patients with your particular clinical profile. Several pharma and technology companies, including Boehringer Ingelheim and IBM, have been exploring the use of blockchain in clinical trial recruitment and management, which could not only speed up recruitment (and development of new therapies) but also make the process much easier for patients.

Control and Sell Your Own Health Data. Having control of your own health records can enable you to make sure the information is correct, better understand it, and ensure that it gets to the right healthcare providers. Some companies and researchers will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for access to identifiable health records--especially those that contain genomic data--for purposes such as the development of new therapies and healthcare quality improvement. Multiple companies are building platforms for consumer control of data, including consumer-controlled marketplaces to sell it, such as Hu-Manity.co and Proof of Impact.
 

What Do You (Personally) Think?


An important part of personalization is attitude and preference, in addition to health status. Are you confident about managing your health on your own, or would you prefer frequent reminders, nudges, and support to help you follow through on positive health behaviors? The extent to which your healthcare reflects your attitudes could have a big impact on your health.
 
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Lygeia Ricciardi is the Chief Transformation Officer at Carium.
 
Author’s statement: I have no financial affiliation with any of the companies or products mentioned in this article.

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