Ozzy Osbourne becomes next generation “ePatient”

In a development that is simultaneously a publicity stunt but also a look into the future of personalized healthcare, Ozzy Osbourne and Knome, Inc. recently announced that Ozzy will have his genes decoded to find out “why he is still alive” after decades of substance abuse and a burning-the-candle-at-both-ends lifestyle. Ozzy is the second public figure, after Glenn Close, to embrace the rapidly-advancing science and technology of genomic medicine to understand themselves and their family members at the most intimate biological level. Ms. Close has what doctors call a “family history” of mental health disorders and she and her sister have become public spokespersons for increasing public awareness of diseases such as schizophrenia and manic depression (bipolar disorder) and for reducing the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

In a broader context, Mr. Osbourne and Ms. Close, are high-profile examples of “participatory medicine” by “e-patients” (where “e” means empowered, engaged and educated to become equal partners with their doctors in managing their health and wellness). We have written about the participatory medicine movement before. One of the paeans of this movement is “give us our damn data!” meaning allowing patients to have access to the results of medical tests that, previously, could only been seen by their doctors and health insurance companies. Mr. Osbourne and Ms. Close have leapfrogged this process by proactively seeking new types of “diagnostic” information that are still outside the bounds of accepted laboratory medicine and practice.

One other public figure, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, has used genetic technologies to discover that he is at risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. In the current issue of Wired magazine, Mr. Brin describes his search for a cure before he gets the disease.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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