Photo: Azizi Seixas
Too often, the ideals of personalized medicine and population health seem to be at odds with each other: What might benefit a group en masse may not necessarily improve the health of an individual.
However, says Dr. Azizi Seixas, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, this is a false dichotomy.
“We believe treating the individual means treating the family, which means treating the community, which means treating the population,” he said in a recent interview with Healthcare IT News.
Seixas and his colleagues seek to bring that belief to real-world solutions at the newly launched Media and Innovation Lab, where Seixas is the founding director.
By focusing on five key components – medical education, clinical care, research, community outreach, and venture opportunities – the MIL aims to drive transformative healthcare innovation.
As Seixas notes, a substantial part of the MIL’s mission involves making innovation and creativity more accessible through education and service.
“We believe that innovation and creativity are not just God-given talents, but they’re skills; they can be taught,” he said. “And we want people to be able to develop those skills – similarly to how you develop the scientific method, as well as the engineering method.”
With that in mind, he said, the MIL is also focused on connecting the fruit of such creativity with the wider community.
“We believe in the mantra of healthcare for all,” he said. “We have this incredible notion that our best solutions must be given to everyone.”
“We’re not creating boutique programs, or solutions for the haves and the have-mores,” he continued. “No, it’s for everyone. And this is what we’re trying to do: ensure that these treatments are precise and personalized, so that people get the right treatment, at the right time, at the right dosage.”
Ambition like this, of course, requires resources.
Seixas notes that academic medicine’s primary mode of revenue is usually through grant funding, tuition and philanthropy.
But by partnering with venture capitalists and angel investors, MIL wants to ensure any projects that stem from its program have a potential to be profitable – while also addressing the tendency of tech disruptors to focus on those who may not be most affected by health disparities.
“We want to ensure that any startup or any company who wants to deploy innovative solutions in the community [knows] that we are the first people that they must come to – so that we can test it efficaciously and effectively [and] so that we can determine what we call ecological validity,” he said.
“We cannot have solutions only tailored … for certain selected groups of individuals,” he continued.
Although many projects are still in the works, Seixas hinted that future initiatives will involve bringing healthcare into the home, including patient monitoring and chronic disease management, as well as personalized digital therapeutics.
He also emphasized the importance of conveying the results of data analysis to those who have volunteered their information.
“The population is overwhelmingly altruistic – especially as it relates to science,” he said. ‘We just have to share it with them. If someone came to me and said, ‘Hey, I want you to give me all your data and information, and it’s gonna live somewhere in the ether, and there is no return on investment,’ I would say, ‘No way I’m going to participate.’
“So why [would] I hold my patients and the people who I serve to a different standard than I would for my own self?” he said.
By contrast, he said, “If we share with the individual that if we know what your environment is like – your health, your air quality – we will be able to create a treatment that would reduce risk for respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD, not just for you, but your granddaughter, or your next door neighbor. People then will say, ‘OK, let’s enter a cooperative agreement as to how you can best utilize my data.'”
In other words, buy-in from the community is key, he concluded: “Providing an incentive is not enough.”
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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