Just 20 years into the 21st century, we have already seen remarkable changes that we could never have anticipated. We've come up with 20 predictions that explore what the next 20 years may have in store for your organization.

Imagine a world that's free of cancer, where diseases are detected and treated before they begin to grow. A world where 80 is the new 50 and Canadians live to be 100 or more. A world where people requiring organ transplants don't rely on someone else's tragedy to save their lives. New and emerging advances in science and technology can make all of this possible in the next 20 years.

The birth of super humans

Genomics, which is the study of all human DNA, will be used in medicine to tap into our genetic code so that we can make changes to our genetic makeup to fix mutations or genetic disorders in order to improve the length and quality of life. We will diagnose diseases before there are symptoms and do it with greater accuracy, which will make treatment timelier and improve outcomes. Genomic medicine will be able to offer targeted treatment to individuals, even those with rare diseases.

This 'preventative' and targeted approach to healthcare will help to bring down costs, which have been rising due to an aging population that traditionally consumes a greater share of healthcare services. And, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and data analytics, we will be able to process larger datasets, which will make genome sequencing more efficient, cost-effective and pay greater attention to diversity. Current superannuation and insurance business models will no longer be needed as health risks will be predictable and people live longer and healthier lives.

Those who have degenerative diseases and congenital conditions that today have no or few options will have their lives improved over the next 20 years through regenerative medicine. We will improve quality of life by being able to grow or repair damaged cells, organs and tissues through the use of stem cells, which can become any type of specialized cell in the body. By repairing the effects of aging, which is the accumulation of damage to our bodies over time, we will be able to not only live longer but live with fewer chronic diseases of age.

Regenerative medicine will allow artificial organs to be grown with the patient's own DNA to reduce the chance of organ rejection after transplant and eliminate wait times for organ donations.

New devices and technologies will improve how we move, live and work. Exoskeletons will assist in rehabilitation, helping people with paraplegia walk. Medical nanobots, acting like disease-fighting machines inside the body, will extend the immune system, repairing damaged cells or replicating themselves to correct genetic deficiencies.

Wearables will evolve in the future, literally getting under our skin. Microchips implanted in the body will connect to the Internet and allow us to download information. These microchips will be linked to a broader personal profile that can be used for personal identification, medical history, and emergency contact information—even e-tickets or transit passes.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), through wearables such as headbands and earbuds, will translate human thought into action by analyzing brain signals and turning them into commands. BCIs were originally focused on helping paralyzed people control assistive devices using their thoughts but new uses will be found. We will be able to understand and share our thoughts more fully, through technology that's capable of interpreting thoughts and emotions, which will promote better connection and empathy among people.

These advances will vastly improve the lives for everyone in society in the coming decades as long as we address issues of data security, privacy and ethics. Manipulating genomes will need to be done with care and the use of genome data will need to ensure all members of society are included so that no one is left behind. Work is already underway to engage with bioethicists in charting ethical roadmaps and to create regulatory oversight. Society will also need to have solutions around data security and data ownership, but such technologies as blockchain – which has not only important cybersecurity benefits but, through its use of encryption, makes it easy to store and share digital information – are already being used today.


Predictions pulse

Trends, breakthroughs, milestones, and insights on our path towards transformative healthcare and its ethical implications. 

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