No, we aren’t talking about hamburgers here. But we are talking about developing a special “recipe” – a recipe for medical treatment that is. As unique individuals, our genetic make-up is what differentiates us biologically, psychologically, and throughout every nuance that makes us characteristically “you” and “me.” It makes perfect sense, then, that what may be an effective medical treatment for one person, may not work, or work as well in treating another person with the same condition. Unfortunately most treatment protocols are developed from studies looking at what works in the majority of people. But that’s starting to change. In fact, it has been in the works for many years and is now known as the emerging field called Precision Medicine.
Medicine tailored just for you
As a consumer today, the world is your oyster. You can get pretty much get anything you want, anytime, anywhere, with mega online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay. We have the ability to set our preferences for many of the day to day websites, software, products, and services we use. Unlike your iPod genius mix, medical protocols are designed for the average person and not customized to your individual needs. While not exactly the same as customizing your shopping preferences, the analogy of healthcare tailored to you is on the forefront of medicine today.
A top priority for the National Institute of Health
According to the fact sheet on President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, most medical treatments have been designed for the “average patient.” Precision medicine is an innovative approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles. Advances in precision medicine have already led to powerful new discoveries and several new treatments that are tailored to specific characteristics of individuals, such as a person’s genetic makeup, or the genetic profile of an individual’s tumor. The President’s 2016 Budget includes $215 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and we can expect more research on targeted treatments and procedures.
Imagine a world without cancer
Clinical trials are paving the way for new and improved, less toxic cancer treatment. This approach involves genetically profiling the individual’s cancer cells and formulating a drug cocktail that is based on that profile. Genomic tumor profiling is already having an impact and has the potential to be more cost-effective than current chemotherapy regimens.** The incredible advances in cancer research incorporate unique molecular and genetic characteristics of an individual’s cancer and then select treatments based on all that combined data.
What a decade it’s been!
The rapid evolution of healthcare has most providers’ heads spinning as more and more demands are placed on their time, finances, and resources. Starting with the required implementation of electronic health records, MU 1 & 2, ACOs, Analytics, Population Health, Interoperability, and the shift from volume- to value-based reimbursements, it’s been quite a whirlwind. While it all may be overwhelming at times, it’s hard to deny the incredible innovation that is being demonstrated across the country by healthcare organizations of all sizes and specialties, united by the common goals of improving patient care and streamlining costs. That said healthcare providers and their patients should embrace precision medicine as the next big frontier. It holds great potential for improving the quality of life for our patients and improving healthcare efficiency.
*The Precision Medicine Initiative: Data-Driven Treatments as Unique as Your Own Body
By: Lindsay Holst, Director of Digital Content for the Office of Digital Strategy, The White House