Patients - these are all of us
How is this group defined?
Of course, we are not all patients in the strictest definition: A person seeking medical treatment for some kind of ailment. I prefer the definition found in Wikipedia: A patient is any recipient of services. This goes well beyond treatment of diseases. For example, your regular checkup at the dentist in the absence of any known problem is covered by the health services. This is a measurement of prevention, not treatment. Add cardiocvascular monitoring, colonoscopy to prevent colon cancer and many other things, that are covered by the health care providers (at least in part). Then it is easier to understand why the headline reads - these are all of us.
What are the major roles of this group in personalized medicine?
Naturally this is the group at the receiving end of personalized treatments and preventive suggestions. However, patients (should) have a much more active role in personalized medicine than passive recipients. First of all, prevention requires a lot more action on the side of the patient than the advisors (doctors, physiotherapists, etc). But also during therapy patients should take an active role. Medication is a great aid for the body but no medication has ever cured anybody without the crucial efforts of the patient itself. Many of these occur subconsciously (such as the basic activity of the immune system) but can be boosted considerably by the mental and physical engagement of the patients. Consenting to the use of the medical data in research and clinical development is also an active role of patients that will have far reaching consequences, either way.
What is the major impact of this group on the development of personalized medicine?
Patients interact with doctors and other people in health care and their questions and demands drive in part which strategies are being pursued in their treatments. It is mandatory that patients explicitly consent to any invasive treatment (including invasive diagnosis) and their willingness to participate in clinical studies is crucial for further development of drugs and treatments. Our choices in these topics seem exclusively personal but in summary are one of the biggest driving forces of medicine including personalized medicine. Or a major obstacle depending on how we as individuals make our decisions.
Fig 24: Patients and their roles
With whom has this group the most important interactions?
MDs regardless whether as practitioners or in hospitals are the natural group to directly interact with. Other non-MD medical staff (nurses, assistants, physiotherapists, representatives from health care providers and sometime lawyers) are also among those groups that interact frequently with patients.
What is required of this group to further the development and application of personalized medicine?
As already mentioned, taking an active role in one’s mixture of prevention, diagnosis and treatment depending on the stage. This goes beyond medical interactions, as we are the ones to influences politicians in their decisions regarding the legal framework within which medicine and personalised medicine can work.
What’s coming up next?
Next week we look at the other of the main axis of personalised medicine, MDs.