Health continues to play a major role in U.S. life. And as we live longer, more and more of our diseases and health conditions tend to be related to aggregate, behavioral factors versus infections, injuries, trauma, or pandemic-type viruses. Granted, COVID-19 was a wake-up call on what a novel virus could do to a population, Richard Sorgnard notes, but in general, much of our overall health trend has been affected more and more by how we live life over time versus immediate impacts. And that where data and technology are beginning to intersect heavily with healthcare delivery.
Data is Not a Broken Record
There has been research on health trends for centuries. Richard Sorgnard would know; as a physician, he had to study all those cases as part of his medical training. Early medicine utilized common patterns to explain conditions and their cures. Before medicine was formalized, folklore and natural cures were regularly used because, based on pattern and results over time, certain plants, mixtures, and applications worked better than others.
Now, Richard Sorgnard expects with the advent of widespread machine learning use and data mining that the world of behavioral trend medicine is coming into vogue. How? By being able to crunch the data of thousands upon thousands of people, their conditions, their life factors, and their ailments, the patterns that have been for years buried in medical folders are coming to life instantly thanks to computers and advanced software design.
Based on data research, where one lives to their occupation to the meals they eat on a regular basis can all be analyzed and combined to identify not only the likelihood of mortality, which is not a big surprise in some cases but Richard Sorgnard now sees how and when a person is most likely to start getting sick with resulting diseases and life-related body reactions as feasible as well. Diet is a big element; what we put in our bodies year after year adds up and comes back to either benefit us or give people a serious health kick in the rear. However, as the data model builds, Sorgnard points out, the actual cause of our conditions later in life snowball with a complexity of behaviors or avoidances.
Made-Up Victims for Science
Now, Richard Sorgnard looks to two of the key advantages of technology, data, and machine learning: simulations and simulated patients. With the vast amount of data available, the medical research side can literally create patients from all walks of life and backgrounds and play them out against the data. And this can be done repeatedly, Richard Sorgnard notes, by the hundreds and thousands of experiments, each one representing a simulated person.
The results are amazing. Researchers are not only able to pull out statistics on various combinations of lifestyles, but they are also able to pinpoint specific correlations and cause-and-effect situations where living a certain way will, inevitably, produce certain diseases or degenerations. Knowing this information, Richard Sorgnard believes medicine can effectively push back on its two standard fronts, prevention, and correction with far greater effectiveness.
What Tomorrow Will Bring
What we are likely looking at in the future is not a social nightmare world as depicted in the 1990s movie, Gattaca, which basically condemned or blessed people based on their genetic makeup at birth or earlier. Physicians like Richard Sorgnard shivered to see the implications of that dystopia. Instead, we are likely going to see a medical field that can actually resolve issues before they occur as well as help reverse existing health problems better based on understanding what likely created them in the first place.
Rather than the guesswork that has continued to be part of medicine dating back to early ancient times, Richard Sorgnard believes healthcare may actually be able to provide research-based, evidence-based medical treatment with a high probability of accurate application. Folks might want to believe this already occurs, but the level it will achieve with technology and data mining will make us look today like we were still practicing medicine in a cave with sticks and stones. Tomorrow in this context is not just another day for Richard Sorgnard, it’s a whole new way of life going forward.