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Bringing precision medicine into the mainstream within the healthcare ecosystem: 3 key takeaways from HIMSS17

By Mark Summers, PA healthcare expert

I attended HIMSS17 this year on a mission to learn about how providers have applied genomics and precision medicine to their workflows and the implications for IT departments. While the market for precision medicine has great potential in the next 3-5 years, there were few vendors and only a handful of sessions on this topic. My take is that it will be 2-3 years before precision medicine becomes more of a focal point for the industry.

With that said, below are three key takeaways from the conference that can help industry professionals better understand how to bring precision medicine into the mainstream of the healthcare ecosystem:

  1. It’s not enough to have genomic information in the chart.
    Many frontline clinicians are not familiar with genomic terminology and may struggle to understand the “so what” of raw genomic information in the chart. In order to get the most benefit of genomic information, impressions need to be clearly indicated and EMRs should be configured so that decision support prompts clinicians for appropriate follow up actions.
  2. Data storage and networking can’t be forgotten.
    While decidedly not the sexiest of topics in IT, ensuring that your organization plans for the large data files associated with genetic testing and has a robust network capable of delivering information to clinicians at the point of care is critical. While there is much excitement about newer technology, we cannot lose sight of these fundamental IT services.
  3. The genomic revolution may come from outside of healthcare.
    No definitive evidence was presented, but anecdotal evidence points to providers such as 23andMe and ancestry.com being the leading purveyors of genetic testing instead of medical providers. This is a trend that is likely to accelerate as the cost of genetic testing continues to decrease and more and more consumers become interested in genetic testing.

In addition to the key takeaways above, there was the usual discussion at HIMSS17 related to the ethics of genetic testing and the fact that, as a result of having genetic testing performed, patients may be unable to obtain life insurance and long term care insurance. While these barriers are very real today, there will likely be a regulatory framework that is developed in the future which will allow patients to receive genetic testing without fear of losing the ability to purchase insurance. This is the single most important development needed to popularize precision medicine within the healthcare industry to selectively prescribe drugs-based efficacy in individuals.

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