Precision medicine, sometimes called personalized medicine, takes into consideration a patient’s genetic variability, environment and lifestyle to prevent and treat disease. It’s intended to ultimately replace the current “one-size fits all” care delivery model, in which patients with the same few select characteristics (e.g., age and disease stage) receive identical treatment plans.
While it’s not a new concept, with recent leaps in science and technology precision medicine has stepped into the spotlight. Its newfound popularity brings hope of a brighter future in successfully treating a variety of diseases, including multiple forms of cancer.
Here’s three ways it could work.
1. Targeted Treatment
Patients don’t always go through the same genetic changes as their disease progresses. In the future, genetic tests will help doctors determine the treatment most likely to result in a positive response from patients. Today, we are already seeing some testing methods – DNA sequencing, for example – and drugs showing promising results in identifying and treating cancers with specific genetic changes, improving patient outcomes. For example, tumor profiling (the genetic testing of a tumor) can predict the likelihood of recurrence, therefore informing the course of treatment.
With a “one-size fits all” model, there is always the possibility of a large cost that has minimal (if any) corresponding benefit. By leveraging targeted treatments patients and caregivers are given greater assurance that their desired outcome – be it survival, or quality of life – will be reached. In fact, overall healthcare treatment costs for many cancers decrease as we treat them effectively with targeted biologic agents, guided by the genetic sequences of their tumors. As precision medicine becomes more common, researchers will be able to define the cost-benefit with greater accuracy.
3. Disease Tracking
Genome sequencing can help find, track and control disease outbreaks. Even germs, which have a DNA fingerprint, can be tracked. The tracking information generated can tell clinicians exactly what is making their patients sick. Public health workers are also able to more accurately determine the source and how to stop the spread of illness on a population level.
While the future looks bright, precision medicine is in its infancy.
With all the promise precision medicine offers, it is important to remember that we are still in the middle of its infancy. A tremendous amount of clinician and patient education is needed, particularly in areas like genetic counseling. For patients, awareness of what is available might be a barrier to self-advocating for additional testing. For others, the fear of “knowing” may stop them from asking.
Patient reach is still limited and not yet considered routine care. But that’s changing through Premier’s work with Salutary.
Salutary is creating a network of regional health systems to advance the potential of precision medicine. The company leverages data from the Premier Healthcare Database to create predictive analytics. It then uses machine learning models to aid physicians, nurses and administrators in understanding their patients’ risks of disease and identifying ways to improve their health. The company evaluates social determinants of health, information stored in the electronic health record and genetic test results to determine best outcomes for patients.
We all act as patients and caregivers at points throughout our lives. Precision medicine is an area where potential for impactful change exists. Yesterday’s patients are most certainly ensuring better care for tomorrow’s.
To learn more about how Premier is involved in advancing precision medicine, visit www.premierinc.com/pas.