The molecular imaging guru chats with DOTmed about the boundless promise of the field and its timely capability to benefit from population monitoring through electronic health records.
In preparing our June issue, DOTmed Business News spoke with Henry Wagner, M.D., professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
[DM: This will be the 33rd year in which you report to the SNM on highlights in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. What exciting advances are on the horizon?]
HW: The theme for my talk is creating a new, smarter health care system. I think the times are fantastic for nuclear medicine because of personalized medicine. Right now we define disease in terms of molecules. We have moved from the cellular to the molecular level. The cells are still obviously very important but we have been able to get inside the cells with molecular imaging.
Molecular imaging makes it possible to characterize the molecules sending messages throughout the body and the receptors that receive them. In my opinion, no specialty of medicine today is better equipped to transfer the advances in molecular biology and genetics to take care of patients in prevention of disease.
[DM: Does that play into possible health care reform in the U.S.?]
HW: We really don't have the details of what the government is proposing for health care reform. They are putting $15-16 billion into electronic health records. They postulate that by 2013 electronic health records will really improve medical practice. They have stressed things like the administrative improvements, scheduling and preventing drug errors but I think analyzing all that data is going to be a tremendous way to improve medical practice at the clinical level.
Most people would agree that a lot of things are done in clinical medicine today that are not ideal because the doctors don't have the proper information. So a nationwide electronic health information system can play a major role in producing smarter health care.
[DM: How does that population information feed into molecular imaging?]
HW: The data from the patient can be analyzed in light of the molecular imaging information that is obtained. There are many studies being performed right now that fit into that category but they are only being analyzed in relatively small groups by individual research studies. The [electronic health record] database will store a tremendous amount of data that is now being done piecemeal by essentially including every patient in the study.