Improving the Quality of Life

I attended the Stanford MedX conference, where I listened to the speakers discuss healthcare and personalized medicine.

We’ve all heard about the quality of life. But what does it mean? The dictionaries define it as “the general well-being of a person or society, defined in terms of health and happiness, rather than wealth”. defines it as “the patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities”. And I define having a high quality of life as doing the things I want to do as well as setting and achieving important life goals. None of these answers are wrong, but neither are they right; the definition differs from person to person. However, they all have one thing in common: the well-being of the individual.

Personalized medicine is one of the major topic in healthcare nowadays the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work anymore. Jennifer Strickland’s Ignite Talks on personalized medication really stood out for me. She mentioned how medications work differently on everyone and how we don’t have information on every medication for every different type of person around the world. It is estimated that about 300 billion dollars are wasted on improper use of medication, while same 300 billion dollars are spent on the medicine itself.

According to Strickland, genetic testing can help. Using genes, scientist can predict the way a patient may react to a certain medication, reducing the adverse effects of the medicine. However, medication prescription should not only be based on a person’s DNA, but also their personality. This comes in context when dealing with cancer patients, as mentioned later in the Ignite Talks by John Magnus, a Design Research Expert at Veryday. According to research, a person’s personality can impact the type of cancer they get.

The second major part of healthcare is getting people the information and care they need after the diagnosis. Derek Newell, the CEO of Jiff, discusses the idea of a patient centered software designed to optimize employee benefit and improve the health care provided by employers. One problem faced today is the focus of the software; how do you design a software so that the doctors get the information they need and the patients can understand it as well? On top of that, patients don’t want to interpret the data, they want to know “Am I ok, and what do I do next?” The goal of the software should be to combines what’s available to the patient, what they want to do, and what they need to do. As Matthew Mahar said during his talk, The Patient Experience in Personal Genomics, “The more emotionally invested one is the greater the burden for clarity in the message”. Matthew’s design goal is to simplify and clarify the data so patients can make informed decisions about their health and get feedback from users to improve his software.

We have to and are continuing to make advancement in personalized medication and patient centered care, and that advancement is the most important thing if we are to learn from our past mistakes and design new solutions for the future. Nupur Garg, Co-founder of Women’s Global Health Network, said “I set a path to break the mold for what we normally see in health care.” This is the attitude we need to keep persevering and make progress in humanity.