Currently our health system is upside down, sadly “healthcare” is really “sickcare”. We wait until our health problem gets really bad and then it’s addressed. Patients are admitted in hospitals when they have an emergency or they are very sick and by then it’s already late! Their organ’s functioning capacity and health has already deteriorated so much that it’s too late to recover back to the way their “healthy” state was.
Our health systems need to learn how to avoid an illness in the first place and adopt what will keep us healthy.
One way is through effective and focused risk-based screening to catch the disease early. The goal of a disease screening is to identify the possible presence of a yet-undiagnosed disease in individuals without signs or symptoms.
What can be done if a disease is caught early as result of effective screening:
- Timely and accurate diagnosis
- Rapid treatment
- Effective care coordination and support
There are screening mandates currently for Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Colorectal cancer etc. after certain age and based on family history risk factors. However, even these don’t have any personalized risk profiles determinants. Someone may need to be screened every 3 years versus every year, and another person, because of higher risk, may need to be screened more frequently – every 6 months.
What about other high mortality and high-cost diseases? Let’s take an example of heart failure.
1 in 5 people develop heart failure at some point. Up to 10% of patients with acute heart failure die in hospital and 20–40% die within a year, while 25% are back in hospital within a month.
Over time, most patients experience multiple episodes of heart failure, which typically become longer and separated by shorter intervals as the ability of the heart to recover declines. The figure below shows the rapid decline of the heart and a person’s health after the first heart failure episode.
Typical progression of acute heart failure. A: good recovery after first episode, B: first episode not survived, C: poor recovery after first episode followed by deterioration, D: ongoing deterioration with intermittent crises and unpredictable mortality point.
Unfortunately, the underlying cardiac functioning starts deteriorating even before the heart failure symptoms become visible. In clinical population studies at least 21% patients showed changes in their heart functioning without any symptoms of heart failure being visible, which resulted in high-risk of death.
Let’s take a look at another staggering figure. Every year 1,376 American youth die from cardiovascular diseases and 76 are athletes.
Testing entire athletic population is a large logistical and financial challenge for universities. Multiple advanced diagnostic tests are required to detect abnormalities in the heart’s functioning. But just the cost of screening roughly 10 million U.S. high school and college athletes could be at least $2 billion in the first year. The screening programs which are important to save our countries’ youth do not materialize, because of the high cost associated with it. This can be avoided by identifying high-risk athletes using a data-driven approach by analyzing their genetic, age and existing digital health data to pre-screen high-risk individuals.
Is this ideal healthcare system even possible? Yes, it is, by effective and personalized prognosis and screening recommendation given by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.
With the technological advances, we now have potential to perform massive medical data crunching and analysis, which was not possible a decade ago, making predictions of new disease development in individuals and population now a reality!
AI algorithms have the ability to assess large amounts of data which is already stored in the existing health systems’ databases to analyze entire population in a matter of hours to give granular risk prediction within specific time periods.
So what is stopping us from adopting the best-in-class technologies to save more lives? Are you with us?