e-Docs !!! Future of Medicine and Fiction
The electric doors of the hospital slid open as Ali walked in supported by his father. He was blind due to an inherited disorder that had plunged many of his ancestors into a dark life. But he was lucky enough. At the reception, Torsell , the robot greeted them and asked Ali to place his hands on a screen which recorded his vitals, analyzed biochemical profile and blood complete picture.Torsell fed patient’s particulars to the computer. All of this information was automatically transferred to the doctor’s computer. “Please proceed to the consultant office at the 7th floor, thank you”.
The doctor exchanged greetings with his patient and took him to the procedure room. It was a medium sized room with a computer control and patient bed which was a thing of interest. On both sides were metallic arms that seemed to be designed for multitasking, there were two computer screens, cardiac and respiratory life support systems, emergency procedure kits, all attached to the bed. It was an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in itself.
As Ali lay on the bed the metallic arms swung to life, fixed a clamp on his right eye and administered local anesthesia. In not more than 5 minutes the bionic chip was inserted into the eye by a hypodermic needle. This microchip would function as his retina and normalize his vision. Same was done for the fellow eye. The computer screens constantly showed Ali’s vitals and an inside view of the eyes, the doctor monitored all this.
He was kept under observation for 2 days during which his family paid him a visit. The hospitals surveillance vents sensed Ali’s grandmother to be suffering from acute respiratory infection and she was given her medicine in a pack of juice … with monoclonal antibodies.
As dreamy as it sounds, it is the not so far future of our medicine. If a man who died a century ago is born in hospital of today, he would probably die again for the fear of being born in an alien world. Huge diagnostic machines, sophisticated operation theaters and complex lab tests have raised the standards of health care but there is yet to be an era of digitalized and personalized medicine. The most prominent expected breakthrough is that of gene therapy. It is a single treatment application which removes or replaces the defective gene causing the disease. Not only inherited disorders but also multifactorial diseases like hypertension, diabetes involve genetic aberrations to some extent. There are two types of gene therapy i.e.
• Somatic type in which the gene correction is individualized and cannot be transferred to offsprings
• Net type which involves altering genetic makeup of germ cells, these changes can redirect the gene pool of future generations.
The most common method of delivery of genetic material to human body is through a viral vector, particularly retrovirus which actually inserts DNA into the human genome. The drawback associated with this technique is that the body cannot tell good and bad virus apart, so it triggers immune reaction. Substitute methods include lipofection and electroporation. The merits of gene therapy are irrefutable yet many censure it on the basis of religion, ethics, eugenic beliefs and the fear of creation of super race if this majestic therapy made its way to black market.
Designer drugs, monoclonal antibodies, vaccine added to food items, pharmacies controlled by robots are yet other marvels of the future medicine. In patients will be implanted with microchips on admission that would automatically carry out about 50 lab tests. Patients will not have to visit the hospital every time for follow up as the digital testing machine would carry out the test with a drop of blood and send report over to the doctor through wireless network. Toilets will automatically process urine report and send it to the computers when required.
Use of surgery will be minimized to least as gene therapy and biochip implants will solve major problems. Prosthetic limbs would feel like real with their e-skin sending pressure, touch and temperature impulses to the brain. In the face of a calamity, robots and electric noses will find missing and dead. All in one patient beds will eliminate the need of ICU for the critically ill.
However, the technological and pharmaceutical advancements in the field of medicine cannot be thought of as a panacea, they may create as many problems as they solve. Evolution of new health challenges with advancement of health care system is a sine qua non. Nevertheless , digitalized and personalized medicine will improve the delivery and efficacy of medical services and give way to better research grounds in future.
About the Author : Reema Rasul a medical student from Army Medical College, Islamabad, Pakistan. She is also the National Director of Professional Exchange at International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFSMA). She can be reached at : [email protected]
About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2012 for the theme: Future of Medicine
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