In the not-too-distant future, doctors won’t just measure your height and weight — they’ll also peer into the little cellular hard drives that make you who you are. Genotypes are the next big thing in personal health care, and if we may sound like every single article in Wired Magazine for just a moment, IN ABOUT FIVE YEARS IT WILL TOTALLY CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR LIFE.

We spoke with Rachel Cohen at 23andMe, a Bay area company that can take a few milliliters of your saliva and turn it into data about your vulnerability to drugs and disease. Most of the information that 23andMe gives its customers is straightforward (like, how high is your risk of diabetes, or how well can your body process alcohol), but since we’re fabricated from tens of thousands of genes, a full genetic analysis is rich in data. That data should be of interest to your personal physician; but surprisingly, Rachel told us that there are unique challenges in getting doctors to look at genes.

“It really depends on the physician,” she said, “most aren’t trained really well in genetics. … They might not understand the information any better than the customer.” You don’t just waltz into a career in genetics, after all; so asking a friendly old-school neighborhood Norman-Rockwell-style doc to analyze your base pairs is a bit like asking a blacksmith to tinker with your iPhone.

But the game is changing. “We’re doing more physician education, giving doctors resources for understanding information as it comes out,” says Rachel, although she declined to identify 23andMe’s partner institutions. “As scientific research gets stronger, physicians will have no choice but to take it more seriously and learn as much as possible.”

This includes, for example, information like your susceptibility to diseases like thrombosis, a potentially-fatal condition that has a strong genetic component. A genetically-savvy doctor could take a look at your vitals prior to surgery and say, “you know, even though you’ve never exhibited any symptoms, we might want to consider giving you a blood-thinner so you don’t develop thrombosis during your recovery.” And they could even go one step further: one of the treatments for thrombosis is Warfarin, a blood thinner that has wildly varying results depending on each patient’s physiology. When prescribing the drug, a doctor might look at your genetic sensitivity to the drug and make a more educated estimation of the dosage that you need.

23andMe can already give you insight into your building blocks; but real advances in professional care are (like everything awesome) five to ten years away from being a reality. Genetic analysis companies are scrambling to find ways of putting their data to work — in fact, one of the guiding principles of 23andMe is openness, and their tools for allowing users to share genetic info is unparalleled in the industry. Meanwhile, Obama’s stimulus bill includes provisions for electronic health records, and Google Health is connecting previously-isolated healthcare providers. And presumably, someone somewhere is working on a tricorder, hypospray, and beeping triangular vital-sign chart just like Beverly Crusher uses.

So either we’ll look back on this time and say, “ah, that’s when it all changed for the better,” or we’ll look back and say, “can you believe we thought that crazy scheme would work back in the two-thousands? And look at how dumb everyone’s hairstyle was!” Fortunately, we’re somewhat immune to the hairstyle criticism, due largely to our recoiling hairline. Now could someone please start working on a genetic cure for THAT?

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