What is the doubling time for medical knowledge? In 1950, it was an estimated 50 years. This accelerated to 7 years by 1980, and to 3.5 years by 2010. Various studies predict the doubling time of medical knowledge will be a mere 73 days by 2020. The knowledge that physicians acquire in medical school forms the building blocks for good patient care decisions throughout their careers. However, across the world, physicians and surgeons struggle to keep up with new knowledge that can impact patient care. Undeniably, the medical fraternity lives at the intersection of technology, data science and healthcare. From Boston to Bangalore, labs, start-ups and academicians have been hard at work, developing tools to assemble and manage health data, and creating interventions and platforms using insights from this data to deliver better healthcare.
Consider a surgeon, who has been practicing for more than a decade, evaluating a patient today. Compared to the handful of options available during his or her training period, there now exist multiple additional options, as well as many open clinical trials, each offering a potentially more effective treatment. Physicians, already burdened with a 'know-it-all' reputation, are at risk here of blind trust from the patient. It’s unrealistic to expect for a doctor to process so much information or recall the pertinent data, on-demand, and accurately. As a 2012 report of the Institute of Medicine states, this gap in knowledge contributes to variation in care and suboptimal outcomes.
With all the advances in Medicine - it unfortunately happens to be intermittent and reactive - we have to move this to become continuous and proactive. The various personal monitoring gadgets that are ubiquitous now will make patient data available to doctor continuously. The ability to sequence the genome economically will help to provide deep insight into the risk factors of the patient and increase the ability of medical profession to be proactive.
There have been various efforts by the physician-scientist and clinicians across the world to curate this knowledge, and translate advancements in medicine and technology to clinical guidelines and standardized practice protocols. With the arrival of more advanced analytics and medical AI, which combines human expertise with machine learning, it is now possible to synthesize a vast knowledge base and suggest treatment options tailored to a specific patient real-time. This will help doctors make better decisions in a time-efficient manner, based on cutting-edge knowledge.
The technology and algorithms that help manipulate a large amount of data produce evidence-based results, and their application into the medical field helps improve the accuracy in diagnosis and decision making. We are marching closer to a world where humans and machines work hand-in-hand to provide high-quality healthcare services to the patient.
Dr Azad Moopen, MBBS, MD
Founder & Chairman, Aster DM Healthcare