The Medicine Cabinet of 2030
How many medications are stocked in your household medicine cabinet? I encourage you to open your cabinet and take a look. From pain relievers and contraceptives to antibiotics and bandages, along with mysterious ointments, expired prescriptions, and an unsettling number of ambiguous tablets… you will likely be surprised by the sheer volume of perplexing medications awaiting their chance to be used.
In this week’s highlight article, we introduce companies and research groups in the realm of health, medicine, and technology. Particularly, we focus on cases that highlight the use of data for personalized pharmaceuticals and treatments.
At “Weill Cornell Medicine,” a medical community comprising globally renowned physicians, researchers, and educators based in New York, efforts are underway to promote the approval and dissemination of personalized new drugs. Professor Olivier Elemento, specializing in physiology and biophysics within the community, states that personalized approaches based on genetic sequences contribute significantly to cost reduction in medical care by optimizing prescription types and dosages.
J.R. Morones-Ramirez, Chief Scientist of a nano-biotechnology research group based in Mexico, suggests that information derived from genetic testing results can enable the design of personalized antiviral treatments for infectious diseases. Although such personalized approaches are currently associated with high treatment costs and are not accessible to everyone, they are expected to gradually become more affordable by the 2030s, making them accessible to a wider audience.
Considering this, the chaotic medicine cabinet might symbolize the mid-process of personalization, or perhaps reflect the complexity and opacity we associate with health and medicine. What might the medicine cabinet of the 2030s, situated at the crossroads of advanced medical technology, health tech, and self-care, look like? Let’s look forward to the future with anticipation.
- $15.3 billion: Total funding raised by health tech startups in 2020 (a 44% increase from 2019)
- ¥300 billion (approximately $2.7 billion): Projected market size of health tech in Japan in 2022 (a 50% increase from 2017)
- Approximately ¥54 trillion (approximately $489 billion): Estimated medical expenses in Japan in 2025
Expectations from Health Tech
Have you heard of the “2025 Problem” in the medical and caregiving industry? It’s when Japan will face a society where 25% of the population is aged 75 and above, with the baby boomer generation becoming elderly. In anticipation of this, health tech is garnering increasing attention in Japan.
Considering my personal interactions with medicine, I think of my 6-month-old daughter. Regular check-ups, sudden fevers, rashes – the occasions of visiting hospitals have significantly increased since her birth. However, within these experiences, a sense of dissatisfaction often arises. The consultation ends quickly, despite the worry of parents like myself. The visit ends with a prescription and a feeling of unease, even though we’ve been given medicine to administer at home.
Of course, seeking treatment is undoubtedly the purpose of medical visits. Yet, I believe that psychological care is equally important. Like me, others might have felt unsure whether just giving the prescribed medicine at home is sufficient, or if there’s something more they should be doing.
“DayToDay Health,” a service providing digital care for pre- and post-operative periods, aims to alleviate these uncertainties. Founded by Prem Sharma, the company addresses the severity of these concerns, with over 90% of people sharing similar worries. I speculate that this kind of psychological support might be the key to advancing health tech. Proper explanations about treatments and medications, along with building trust, are crucial.
Speaking of medical trust, the recent vaccine hesitancy remains vivid in memory. The internet has been a hotspot for unclear information about side effects, even though WHO, CDC, and governments worldwide actively communicate information. In Japan, over 10% of people have refused COVID-19 vaccines, with about 70% of them citing concerns about side effects. Clearly, people harbor strong suspicions about new medical technologies.
As technology progresses, health tech gains new dimensions. The expectations and anxieties of people are substantial. By combining health management and advice in the digital realm, provided with the support of healthcare, health tech has the potential to support both physical and mental well-being.
The Role of Health Tech in Connecting People
What can we expect from the introduction of health tech to Japan’s healthcare system?
In Japan, with the progression of an aging population, rising medical expenses have become a significant concern. This cost burden affects not only the government but also those who require hospitalization or regular medical attention due to life-threatening illnesses. This has led to the introduction of home medical care systems. The number of estimated outpatient visits for home medical care has almost tripled from 2005 to 2017. According to a public opinion survey by the Japanese Cabinet Office, nearly 40% of respondents preferred to receive care at home. Additionally, over half of the respondents chose home as their preferred place to spend their final moments. However, the hospital death rate in Japan is at a high 81%, even when compared to international standards.
My mother has been working in the medical field for several years, providing home-based treatments and “palliative care” services to help patients lead meaningful lives during their remaining time. Observing her dedication to patient care, I can’t help but wonder if the burden on healthcare providers is becoming too heavy. At the same time, my mother emphasizes the importance of forming connections with each patient. She believes that her role as a healthcare provider has meaning only when there’s a connection with the patient. Indeed, having someone who knows you well is a tremendous support, providing comfort during uncertain times. Especially in situations related to one’s life and health, the presence or absence of such a reliable figure makes a significant difference.
Introducing health tech to home medical care could significantly alleviate the burdens on both patients and healthcare providers. For instance, if AI could assess general medical conditions from checklists or specific symptoms, online consultations would become more accurate, leading to quicker responses from medical professionals. Additionally, an online network or platform that allows quick identification of who is visiting a particular medical facility and who can respond to a patient’s location could bring about substantial efficiency. This improvement would ensure that while achieving efficiency, the importance of patient engagement is not lost. As technology connects people and healthcare, health tech could be the key to a new service model that bridges the gap.
Should we trust big tech with our health data?
In an era where various AI diagnostic systems, from early dementia detection to cancer diagnosis, are emerging, the utilization of big health data has sparked intense debate. The UK government has proposed sharing GP data stored in the NHS (National Health Service) with private research institutions and companies.
However, concerns about the commercial use of highly private health information by big tech have led to substantial debate. Issues related to privacy protection and building trust remain prominent.
A doctor explains why the latest TikTok trend of stuffing garlic up your nose to relieve congestion is a terrible idea
A health trend involving stuffing garlic up one’s nose to alleviate congestion has gained traction on TikTok under the hashtag “garlicinnose,” with over 50 million views. However, Dr. Wenner from the University of Pennsylvania warns that this action could potentially lead to inflammation.
TikTok has previously seen the spread of dangerous health information, such as the consumption of large amounts of nutmeg, which could potentially lead to unconsciousness. This highlights the need for enhanced fact-checking.
Tellus You Care
Tellus, a startup from San Francisco, has developed an elderly monitoring device. Utilizing cutting-edge radar technology also used in autonomous driving, it collects and analyzes vital data and activity records in a “contactless” manner.
Unlike conventional monitoring cameras, this device doesn’t record visuals or audio, ensuring privacy. After entering the Japanese market in February of last year, the rental of this device has become eligible for coverage under long-term care insurance, further driving its progress.