- Close to a third of healthcare organizations participating in a HIMSS Analytics poll are currently employing precision medicine techniques in everyday care, indicating that a personalized approach to medicine is already much more than just a theoretical research project.
The Precision Medicine 2016 Essentials Brief, which includes responses from 137 healthcare leaders, found that personalized treatments are mainly taking hold in larger organizations.
Of the 29 percent of providers that said they are using genomics, environment, and lifestyle data to tailor treatment decisions, 35 percent were academic medical centers, 25 percent are multi-hospital systems, and 41 percent were organizations with more than 500 beds.
This may not be surprising, considering the financial investment required to develop personalized medicine services, not to mention the funding necessary to support research programs and attract top talent to a growing number of precision medicine centers.
As part of the national Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), the National Institute of Health (NIH) has been handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, mostly to larger academic centers with the scale and basic competencies to advance the scientific knowledge of the healthcare sector.
The Mayo Clinic is one of the most well-known organizations to benefit from this outpouring of funding. The Minnesota-based medical system recently received $142 million to develop the framework for the PMI’s centerpiece initiative: the million-patient biobank that will provide big data to the nation’s research community for years to come.
“The initiation of the Precision Medicine Initiative has certainly helped bring precision medicine to the forefront of healthcare today, especially in research areas such as cancer,” says HIMSS Analytics Director of Research, Brendan FitzGerald.
Cancer is the main focus for the majority of current precision care initiatives, the survey found. Just under 80 percent of respondents are prioritizing oncology, partially due to the fact that the Precision Medicine Initiative, and the complementary Cancer Moonshot, have apportioned a significant amount of funding to these efforts.
Neurology is also a popular area of study, HIMSS Analytics says. Thirty-eight percent of participants are working on neurological issues, while 30.8 percent are tacking prenatal screenings and 28.2 percent are engaged in improving cardiology care. Just 10.3 percent are focused on epidemiology, while the same number are split amongst other areas of study.
The survey isn’t the only evidence that precision medicine is gaining ground in real-life care situations. A separate report by SAP and Oxford Economics from May of 2016 found that three-quarters of healthcare stakeholders believe that a personalized approach to care will be directly impacting patients within the next two years.
Sixty-eight percent said that precision medicine is already producing a measureable benefit for patient outcomes.
The providers and life science professionals participating in that survey were more focused on diabetes and neurological diseases than cancer. Sixty-three percent will prioritize the metabolic disease in the next two years compared to just 44 percent who will put the majority of their resources into addressing common cancers.
“Personalized medicine offers better and more efficient ways to address a wide range of challenging medical issues,” said Edward Cone, Deputy Director of Thought Leadership and Technology Practice Lead at Oxford Economics.
“At the same time, there remains a lot of work to be done on the details of governance, culture, and information technology.”
The HIMSS Analytics brief also pointed out the fact that healthcare providers will have a number of technical challenges to address before precision medicine can truly flourish. More than 60 percent of respondents said their most significant obstacle will be the integration of clinical data systems.
Providers may also struggle to integrate clinical and genomic data into their current big data analytics programs, and are also likely to face difficulties when trying to add this information to their electronic health record workflows in a meaningful and intuitive way.
“The process of conducting precision medicine is still highly specialized and many healthcare organizations rely upon a combination of internal and external (3rd party testing laboratories) resources to aid them in their processes,” FitzGerald said.
“Specific solution platforms dedicated to precision medicine are now being implemented across the market which should help organizations in the journey toward specific disease treatment and prevention.”
If organizations can successfully navigate their data governance and health IT obstacles, precision medicine is likely to have a wide-ranging impact on the care continuum as a whole. Personalized care techniques may help to fine-tune population health management programs and clinical analytics, the report says, and may also accelerate the development of electronic health records that include socioeconomic, genomic, and lifestyle data.
“The future of the precision medicine marketplace is a bright one,” the brief concludes, noting that more research will be necessary to chart the course of precision medicine-specific technologies that are likely to arise over the next few years as healthcare organizations start to see the value in this highly personalized manner of delivering quality care.