A key element in medicine is not just our ability to cure disease but our ability to diagnose it in the first place. The pharmaceutical industry spends millions of dollars researching and developing drugs that will cure, and, if not, then relieve the symptoms of disease. In fact, our knowledge of disease has expanded enormously over the past 50 years: our insight into illness now goes right down to the molecular level. This knowledge has enabled the development of drugs that today save the lives of millions of people around the globe.
However, before a drug can be prescribed a general practitioner/physician has to diagnose the illness or disease. For most patients with a problem the first visit to this doctor will be a series of questions followed by an examination. Remember, though, that the patient only goes to the doctor when there are already symptoms, so there is a strong likelihood that the illness is already well established by this stage.
In most doctors' offices the diagnostic equipment that is available has hardly changed at all over many years and, in all likelihood, your illness will probably be diagnosed by your doctor solely on the basis of his or her professional judgement. Put another way, his or her decision on what to do next will be based on a series of questions, some rudimentary examination and his or her ability to recall some facts. I don't know how you feel about this, but for me this situation is incredibly scary!
"An early correct diagnosis and an early intervention with the right medicine make sense. In the end it will be the patients themselves who will demand this better diagnosis and treatment."
The point is that although our knowledge and understanding of disease and ways to cure it have grown immensely, the practices used for initial diagnoses have hardly developed at all. This, as you can deduce, is not because of lack of scientific ingenuity, but rather because of the way that medicine itself is practised. The primary reasons for the poor advances in diagnosis are general conservatism within the health profession and cost containment.
Now, imagine a world where diagnosis of disease occurs before symptoms appear; visualise a doctor's office where the doctor can confirm his or her judgement instantly through a diagnostic protocol. An early correct diagnosis and an early intervention with the right medicine make sense. In the end it will be the patients themselves who will demand this better diagnosis and treatment. The resistance to implementation of this scenario will be based on arguments about the additional cost of these advanced diagnostics, so until the financial benefits can be translated into an overall cost reduction of healthcare, little progress will be made.
The diagnostic revolution has yet to take place.
Chief Executive Officer