Paul Iske

The elephant must be in the china cabinet

Do you know the story of the elephant that is touched by six blindfolded people? The question is: what is this? Answers come, ranging from 'a tree' (the one who feels the paw), 'a wall', 'a snake', etc.

Nobody has any idea what they are dealing with. Until they share and combine their observations. The elephant then appears in the common image. In complex systems, we call this phenomenon emergence. The true nature and behaviour of a complex system can only be understood by observing it from different perspectives.

Personalised care is about complexity in multiple forms. People are all unique and complex; genetics, life style, cultural background, education and much more determine who you are dealing with. We are particularly interested in treating and preventing conditions such as cancer, MS, diabetes, rheumatism and cardiovascular disease. These are all complex conditions where 'system medicine' must ultimately teach us how to deal with the unique combination of patient and condition.

We have a lot of data and the (mathematical) power to extract and recognise patterns from that data. These are opportunities to make huge progress! This data is distributed in a very complex environment of hospitals, clinical research, pharmaceutical companies, insurers' databases, wearables and so on. If all these parties share their information, their observations of part of the reality of patients and conditions and, this is the crux, combine them, then the elephant will appear and we will know what we are dealing with. This is the principle of combinatorial innovation: bring together the knowledge and information of different parties and opportunities for value creation will arise. It is a question of "must do", "can do", "want to do". We don't want to lose any time, all parties have to gather around the table and work towards this common goal. That is the driving force behind the PHC Catalyst Alliance. Accelerating the transition to personalised care will succeed if we combine and use all knowledge. The elephant must be in the china cabinet!