Skip to main content
Home » Industry News » Transforming Health Care: The Personalized Revolution
Michael Duong

Michael Duong

Head of Personalized Healthcare, Roche

At its core, personalized health care is about information. And in today’s highly digital world, information means data. Because of this, a growing cohort of health data companies are looking to reshape the way medical data is gathered, handled, and used. They see a system today that’s failing to properly translate information about patients into tangible health outcomes. 

“The more we understand about a patient, the better the outcomes are likely to be,” says Michael Duong, Head of Personalized Healthcare at Roche Canada. “This includes precision medicine and understanding the biology of a patient and their specific disease, but it goes beyond that, also including things like the social determinants of health. There’s a large body of research showing that external factors — things like the level of stress a patient experiences at work, and their socioeconomic well-being — actually have a greater impact on health outcomes than internal factors like biology. That’s why we’re so interested in developing the capability to treat a patient as a person with all these factors accounted for rather than treating a disease.”

Revolutionizing health care

Personalization in health care has been slowly expanding for decades, as new diagnostic and genetic tools are allowing us to better select treatments, but Roche believes this is just the beginning of a much more profound change. “This next step is not an evolution of the health care system so much as it is a complete revolution,” says Duong. “The level of personalization we want to provide, and the things we need to enable that, will require a fundamental transformation of our health care system and the ecosystem that supports it.”

The Canadian health care system is well-loved, well-established, and stable. But in the fast-paced information age, that stability can also bring with it a frustrating inertia. Today’s health care system is lagging well behind its potential in data utilization, and the systems in use are often decades old. In the world of data, decades are like centuries. 

The level of personalization we want to provide, and the things we need to enable that, will require a fundamental transformation of our health care system and the ecosystem that supports it.

Michael Duong, Head of Personalized Healthcare at Roche Canada

Many barriers, but technology isn’t one of them

Modernizing this system to take full advantage of the power of health data is a daunting task with major hurdles to clear. Of these hurdles, the most significant might be old data policies and practices that keep data locked away in information silos.

But the solutions are there if the will can be found to implement them. “The one thing that’s absolutely not a barrier is the technology,” says Duong. “We have access to decades of innovative developments in artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, computing power, and data security. The technology is ready to go if we’re ready to use it. It’s the current policies and infrastructure of the health care system that are holding us back.”

As with any seismic shift in an institution as large and complex as the health care system, change isn’t going to happen overnight and it’s not a one-person, or even one-ministry, job. Health care stakeholders have traditionally been conceived as four interconnected quadrants: government, industry, healthcare professionals, and patients. In moving forward the conversation about a health data revolution, all four quadrants are vital, but the way we think about them is evolving.

“When we talk about bringing all stakeholders to the table, we’re talking about all four quadrants, but those quadrants have grown and become more nuanced over time,” says Duong. “Industry isn’t just the pharmaceutical sector anymore. We need to also be bringing tech companies into the health care conversation. And when we talk about government, we’re not just talking about the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, but now also the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.”

Woman leaning against glass

Collaboration can benefit everyone

If we can bring all these groups together and create lasting change, the likely benefits are far-reaching. The research spells out clear potential to improve outcomes for patients in this scenario, but companies like Roche believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg on a societal level. “If we create an ecosystem that fosters health technology innovation in Canada, the potential for economic growth could be beyond anything we’ve ever seen before,” says Duong. “We would be creating an entire new industry that could transform health care from an expenditure of resources to an economic driver for the nation.”

It needs to be a team effort but, if done right, everybody wins. “Our vision is a health care system that’s able to offer everybody their best treatment option,” says Duong. “Right now, we don’t really have a healthcare system, we have a disease care system. We want to build a system that can truly provide health.”

Next article