Rising life expectancy in Germany and other countries is accompanied by a growing risk of multiple diseases and chronic conditions. As a result, precise, less traumatic and individually customised treatments are becoming increasingly important. In the future, medical treatments will be precisely tailored to individual patients based on their genetic make-up, lifestyle and individual symptoms.
Every one of us will be a patient at some point in our lives – and every patient is different. Patients want to be recognised as individuals and placed at the centre of all medical treatments. However, all medical care should also be evidence-based – in other words it should have been tested in a sufficiently high number of cases. Individualised medicine combines both of these principles. Its success is inextricably linked to new medical technologies.
former acatech President Dieter Spath
Medical technology in diagnosis and therapy
In its position paper “Towards Individualised Medicine through Medical Technology”, acatech examines the wide range of applications that technological innovations have for individualised patient care, and formulates recommendations for government, academia and industry. The Academy recommends pooling medical technology expertise from research, clinical practice and industry in order to promote translation.
Custom-made prostheses and implants
In the future, individualisation will be taken to another level. For example, it will be possible to make prostheses and implants that fit better, are better tolerated and last longer. Until now, these products were only available in fixed sizes, like off-the-peg clothing. This meant that they didn’t fit every patient equally well. Innovative research projects are investigating the use of precise 3D imaging and 3D printing technology to make customised prostheses and implants tailored to each individual patient. Moreover, intelligent prostheses will be able to release targeted doses of drugs to reduce inflammation or promote tissue repair, as well as adapting better and better to the individual patient’s needs, for example their movement profile or metabolic function. Enhanced tolerance can be achieved by using autologous cells, which are less likely to be rejected by the immune system.
Digitalisation in medicine
The growth of digitalisation is driving advances in medicine. In the future, all measurement values and laboratory data, images, medical histories, diagnoses and previous treatments will be available as digital data sets.
Patient models provide an increasingly accurate picture of patients. We can use these patient models to develop customised therapeutic procedures. In order to do this, we need access to patient data from different doctor’s appointments. We also need digital information and clinical decision support systems that use patient models to perform a targeted analysis of their symptoms or treatment options. The use of big data to support clinicians will not only benefit individual patients – every treatment will also add to the digital knowledge base for future use.
Thomas Lenarz, Clinical Director of Otorhinolaryngology at the Medical University of Hannover, and acatech Member