- Geisinger Health System has announced that it will soon include genomic sequencing in routine clinical care in an effort to advance precision medicine and improve patient outcomes.
“Understanding the genome warning signals of every patient will be an essential part of wellness planning and health management,” said Geisinger CEO and President Dr. David Feinberg.
“Geisinger patients will be able to work with their family physician to modify their lifestyle and minimize risks that may be revealed. This forecasting will allow us to provide truly anticipatory health care instead of the responsive sick care that has long been the industry default across the nation.”
Standard screenings such as colonoscopies, mammographies, and cholesterol checks are sufficient for patients at average risk for cancer and heart disease, but these routine methods of care could be inadequate for patients at higher risk for these conditions.
Geisinger’s DNA sequencing project has the potential to identify virtually all patients who are at increased risk of certain early onset cancers and cardiac diseases.
This project will build on Geisinger’s previous efforts to conduct large-scale genomic sequencing for its patients.
In 2014, the health system collaborated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to introduce a genomics patient portal called GenomeConnect. The portal allows patients to upload their genetic testing results to a data repository and fosters engagement through an online discussion board.
During the same year, Geisinger launched its MyCode Community Health Initiative, a precision medicine and genome sequencing project that has enrolled more than 200,000 participants and has already provided clinically relevant results to both patients and providers.
More than 500 MyCode participants have received clinical reports informing them that they have a genetic variant that increases their risk of cancer or heart disease. This allows primary care doctors to detect and treat these conditions before clinical symptoms are present.
“Sequencing the known functional parts of the genome for our patients is becoming a clinical reality, not just as a diagnostic test for patients who present with particular symptoms, but for all patients in the communities we serve,” said David Ledbetter, PhD, Geisinger Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer.
“As we sequence the exomes of our patients and learn even more about particular genome variants and their impact on different health conditions, we predict that as many as 10 to 15 percent of our patients will benefit.”
Geisinger will launch a 1000 patient-pilot program within the next six months to start off its clinical genomic sequencing efforts. The program will then expand throughout Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
“The way we look at it, that’s millions of Geisinger family members who no longer have to rely on the law of averages to forecast their health and make plans about their life and how they live it,” Feinberg and Ledbetter wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article co-authored by Huntington F. Willard, PhD, director of Geisinger’s National Precision Health Initiative.
“For these patients, precision healthcare reduces uncertainty and allows them to take charge. For clinicians, the technologies help us achieve, finally, what should be the true goal of medicine — keeping our patients well,” they concluded.