It wasn’t too long ago that clothing and shoes were made by tailors and cobblers who were skilled in customizing their products for the customers they served. The industrial revolution almost put an end to that approach, as products made by machines caught the eye and pocketbooks of consumers everywhere and tailors and cobblers all but slipped into the shadows of the past.
The trouble was that mass production resulted in a product that didn’t fit as well. Clothes and shoes were made in stock sizes and were designed to fit the “average person,” whoever that is. Moreover, it made shopping for clothes and shoes a less personal, less personalized and more challenging experience.
Strangely enough, healthcare went through a strikingly similar evolution. Pre-industrial medicine was patient-centered, individualized. The doctor met with the patient, took time to get to know the peculiarities of his illness experience and then compounded a remedy specifically for him.
Nowadays medicines are made to address a patient’s disease, more or less without respect for the patient’s illness experience. Population-based clinical trials shape new medicines, rather than specific individual needs and the resulting products, like the clothes and shoes we now wear, don’t really “fit” the patient’s needs as well as a custom-tailored prescription would.
Bespoke clothes and shoes generally cost a fortune and are typically reserved unto the 1%. That said, Nike and Levi have started selling custom-tailored shoes and pants, albeit using computers and machines programmed to approximate the artistry of the old-world tailor or cobbler, to the less wealthy. I suppose that scientific advances in mapping the human genome, collecting and processing medical data and so on will eventually result in custom-manufactured pharmaceutical drugs, but for now bespoke medicine is delivered primarily by naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, homeopaths and other “alternative” health care practitioners.
You may not be able to afford a bespoke suit from Kiton or a custom-made pair of shoes from John Lobb, but you can get a jump on what is likely to become the future of medicine by making an appointment with an integrative medical doctor or nurse practitioner or an alternative health care practitioner the next time you’re not feeling well.
If you can buy a pair of pants or shoes that are made from scratch using materials that not only fit you perfectly, but accentuate your assets, doesn’t it make sense to try and care for the inside of your body the same way? Individualized medicine is the wave of the future.