Ending 'shot-in-the-dark' healthcare

By Eric Wicklund
06:41 PM
Eric Dishman

To Eric Dishman, healthcare is personal. 

And it should be that way for everyone, said Dishman, an Intel Fellow and general manager of the company's Health and Life Sciences Group, during a Tuesday morning Views from the Top session at HIMSS14. 

No more getting your healthcare from a once-a-year visit to the doctor – what he called "shot-in-the-dark" healthcare – or relying on hospital physicians who've never seen you before to save your life. "This is really about predictive, preventive, precise, personal health," he said. 

Dishman, whose speech was titled "N=1: Customizing Care for My Life and My DNA," offers an amazing example of the power of personalized care. 

Roughly 25 years ago, as a 19-year-old Duke University student, he was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer and given, at most, a year to live. He beat that prediction, weathered two decades of chemotherapy, then had his genetic profile mapped. That led to a new diagnosis and different chemotherapy, which cleaned out the cancer. Then he had a kidney transplant, and is now healthier than he's been in a quarter-century.

And now he's championing the "care anywhere, care networking and care customization" method of healthcare, in which technology and care teams come together to create a healthcare regimen that's specific to each person. That entails "recreating the whole human again," and focusing on each person's body, behavior and biology.

"We are rooted in mainframe healthcare thinking and attitudes," he said. And that won't work in a society where "people as individuals… are different."

Dishman's philosophy calls on the latest in health technology to reform healthcare's fee-for-service mode of thinking. He envisions mHealth technology, including wearable sensors, connecting the consumer to his or her biometric data at all times, and driving that data to healthcare coordinators for a personalized care plan. He also sees clinicians taking personality and behaviors into account when creating that care plan. 

And he's a firm believer in gene sequencing, which can identify mutations and pave the way for individual treatments that have a higher chance for success. He brought on stage Andrew Litt, chief medical officer of Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences, who is working with T-Gen to map the genetic profiles of children with cancer. Of the 15 children who have so far undergone gene mapping, he said, 60 percent have responded well – and while the first child suffered a relapse of cancer a year later, that child underwent another sequencing, which led to a new treatment plan that is working.

"We're just to the point of Google Earthing what's going on in these cells," Dishman said, adding that genome sequencing may some day either eliminate cancer or turn it into a chronic condition.

That's a promising future from someone who almost didn't have one.