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NorthShore to Add Genomic Data to Primary Care for 10K Patients

NorthShore University HealthSystem and Color are partnering to bring genomic data into the primary care environment.

Genomic data and primary care

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Illinois-based NorthShore University HealthSystem is partnering with Color to bring genomic data into the decision-making process for primary care.

The DNA10K initiative will engage more than 10,000 patients to integrate genomic testing results into electronic health records to illuminate potential risks and support the delivery of highly personalized preventive care.

Color will work with providers at the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine at NorthShore, in addition to primary care physicians across the health system, to bring more actionable insights to patients, said J.P. Gallagher, President and Chief Executive Officer of NorthShore.

“NorthShore is committed to enhancing our connection to the patients and families we serve. Our experience and expertise in genomic medicine allow us to bring a greater level of understanding and new insight, which leads to deeper and more powerful patient relationships, better outcomes and informed preventative actions for the individual and family.”

The DNA10K program will build off a successful pilot that saw more than 1000 patients sign up for genomic testing in less than two months. 

READ MORE: FDA Recognizes Genomic Database to Advance Precision Medicine

This represents a 40 percent participation rate among eligible individuals in the health system, indicating that public interest in leveraging DNA testing to better understand personal risks is growing at a rapid rate.

“NorthShore is a leader in their commitment to build a future where healthcare moves from reactive to proactive and using genomics as a core component to improve individual health at population scale,” said Othman Laraki, CEO of Color. 

Dr. Peter Hulick, Medical Director of NorthShore’s Center for Personalized Medicine
Dr. Peter Hulick, Medical Director of NorthShore’s Center for Personalized Medicine Source: Xtelligent Media

The company, which has focused its core competencies on cancer genes, is also participating in the NIH All of Us research program as the co-leader of one of three Program Genome Centers to support the nationwide effort to improve precision medicine and population health. 

“Color is proud to join NorthShore through this unique collaboration to unlock the role of genomics in routine care,” Laraki said.

The initial focus for the project will be on conditions with the potential to create a high impact on health, such as heart disease and inherited cancer syndromes, Dr. Peter Hulick, Medical Director of NorthShore’s Center for Personalized Medicine, told HealthITAnalytics.com in an interview.

READ MORE: Alabama Recruits for Statewide Population Health, Genomics Program

There are already well-established clinical guidelines around the risks associated with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, for example, giving patients and providers a roadmap for next steps should the patient have a potentially harmful mutation.

“We’re excited about the ability to improve patient care by incorporating genomics information at the health system population level,” said Hulick.

“Genomics is one part of assessing a patient’s health risk profile. This information needs to be incorporated with other health information about the patient to gain a truly holistic picture. Then, a tailored, personalized screening and prevention plan can be outlined for the patient.”

Providers will need to deliver detailed education to patients about how the data will be used to guide health-related decisions and what types of interventions may be applicable to their situations, Hulick added. 

And clinicians themselves will need to ensure that they have a comprehensive understanding of how to apply these insights to care.

READ MORE: Geisinger Adds Genomic Sequencing to Routine Clinical Care

“Knowledge gaps about what genetics can and cannot help us with for both patients and providers still exist, which is why continued education will be needed,” he said. 

“This education may be delivered to providers in the moment using clinical decision support tools, or it may take the form of more traditional seminars, lectures, and peer education.”

Providers in the primary care environment will also need to work closely with their patients to ensure that individuals understand the definition of “risk,” the likelihood of developing a condition, and how they can reduce their chances of future poor health through lifestyle changes or medications.

Patients can vary in their responses to learning that they have a genetic mutation, Hulick explained, and providers should make certain that they are tailoring their communications to the health literacy level and emotional capacity of each individual.

“Perception of risk and the potential anxiety that may result is a very individual reaction,” he observed. “A key aspect of the program is that we are targeting conditions for which there is a medically accepted plan to reduce those risks significantly.” 

“It can empower the patient to be proactive in the management of their care, which is often reassuring to many patients. And although this program is launching at the primary care level, patients and providers will still have access to genetics professionals to help and will have the oversight of the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine.”

“NorthShore is committed to ensuring the programs we implement improve patient health,” said Hulick. “We plan to measure the impact of this program to ensure we are achieving this goal.”

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