In a world of customized healthcare, precision medicine is gaining momentum. Solving a patient's medical issues based on genetic testing, demographic information, and biomarker research? It seems almost futuristic! But it's closer than it seems.
Read on to learn more about how precision medicine has the potential to impact patient care.
What is precision medicine?
While precision medicine aims to provide more "individual-ish" targeted treatments and care plans, it also isn't intended to be literally individualized. That would be impractical and deeply expensive.
Precision medicine is an analytical tool that classifies patients into smaller sub-populations based on demographic and genetic discrepancies. Environment, lifestyle, and medical data feed into biomarker research, bioinformatics, and genomics — allowing clinicians to find the exact right drug and treatment plan for each patient. Through advanced analytics, big data, deep learning, and statistical models, clinicians can explore and solve for a patient's distinct ailment and their respective demographic and genetic information.
With the U.S. government's unveiling of the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015 — which resulted in a $215 million dollar investment in the NIH’s 2016 budget — precision medicine is now seen as a healthcare approach for both the future and the present, particularly with the explosion of personalized care delivery.
How does precision medicine impact patient care?
1. Improves quality and outcomes
Fewer readmissions and visits
Precision medicine is based on specific genetic and demographic factors, meaning the tests are more accurate and patients are spared unnecessary procedures or prescriptions. For instance, a patient being treated for anxiety may try a variety of different prescription strengths and drug types before landing on the 'right' therapy. With precision medicine, this back-and-forth is reduced tenfold; before prescribing, providers could order a genetic test to see whether the individual has a genetic makeup that would reduce the effectiveness of the drug.
Precision medicine helps clinicians reduce educated guesses by using big data as a primary diagnostic and decision-making tool. It also helps physicians better understand the underlying mechanisms by which these diseases occur and improve their approach to preventing, diagnosing, and treating these diseases.
2. Drives down costs
While it seems strange that precision medicine—with its DNA sequencing, high-tech diagnostic tests, and individually targeted therapies—might reduce healthcare costs, spending money up-front on a precision diagnostic test can save money in the long run.
3. Mitigates physician burnout
With fewer patients returning over and over to readjust prescriptions and treatment plans—this frees up the days of busy and understaffed healthcare providers, who are now better able to treat the patients in need of the most care. And with an increasing number of physician shortages, this is particularly important.
4. Value-based care, patient-centricity
As a nation, we are moving away from fee-for-service and toward value-based care models, where the quality—not quantity—of care is paramount. As this shift occurs, we are simultaneously entering an era of patient-centricity, where patients are looking for convenient and personalized care. Healthcare providers as well as pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies must cater to these needs, lest they take their business elsewhere.
Naturally, precision medicine plays into the notion of patient-centricity as they develop a personalized care plan based on an individual's genetic and demographic information. Genomic testing arms physicians with an unprecedented level of insight into a patient’s condition so they can determine the best individualized care plan—and sooner.
The formula for value-based success aligns with the objectives of precision medicine: treating patients effectively, quickly, and without unnecessary cost.
What are some potential concerns associated with precision medicine?
Precision medicines are generally projected to be more expensive than “regular” medicines. This is not particularly surprising as new and novel healthcare innovations tend to be more costly, at least in the ramp up period. Further, precision medicine may also have the potential to create socioeconomic inequalities, as the "haves" will be able to afford more expensive genetic tests (and better diagnostic and treatment care), and the "have nots" may not have the same luxury.
Genetic privacy and security
Privacy of sensitive genetic information became a real issue because unethical companies could sell or buy results of tissue samples. Because of this concern, federal laws like GINAor the HIPAA Omnibus Rule are attempting to maintain patient privacy preventing payers and employers from being discriminatory toward patients based on their genetic information.
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