Predictive Computer Programs Forecast Patients’ Expected Diseases, Treatments
Using "evidence-based predictive modeling," some biotechnology companies are developing computer programs that could provide patients with a "more accurate forecast of what diseases they can expect to develop" and possible treatments, the Houston Chronicle reports. The programs combine patient data, including age, gender, race, family history and cholesterol, with information collected from studies of specific diseases to "determine a person's likelihood of developing those diseases." Durham, N.C.-based BioSignia has developed a program that focuses on predicting widely studied chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and breast cancer. Eventually, such programs could contain genomic information, the Chronicle reports. Companies plan to market the technology to health care providers, self-insured employers and pharmaceutical companies "seeking to manage and prevent illness more efficiently." However, some critics are concerned that drug makers could begin to "urge doctors to prescribe unnecessary preventive medications." In addition, some critics say that insurance companies and employers could use patient information to "protect themselves from people who are health risks." Ronald Green, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College, said, "Generating profiles of high-risk individuals, given the almost sieve-like nature of medical information, is almost an invitation to discrimination" (Hempel, Houston Chronicle, 4/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.