Intermountain Healthcare develops new test for predicting chronic disease

Researchers say the Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score can predict which patients will receive a first diagnosis within three years.
By Bernie Monegain
02:14 PM
Intermountain predicting chronic disease

Heidi May, cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, led research into the predictors of chronic illnesses.

Intermountain Healthcare has developed a new test that gauges the risk of chronic illness.

It’s a scoring system the researchers named ICHRON, an acronym for “Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score, derived from routine blood tests and taking patient age into consideration.

The score can predict who will receive their first diagnosis of a chronic disease within three years of the test, the researchers said.

"Our goal was to create a clinical tool that is useful, easily obtainable, and does not slow the workflow of our clinicians,” said Heidi May, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

If a patient received a high ICHRON score, for example, a clinician could plan to see the patient more frequently or be more aggressive with treatments. Or if the patient had a low ICHRON score, they could potentially be seen less often, or their care providers could forego a test they were considering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all U.S. adults experienced at least one chronic health condition in 2012, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

According to the CDC, 48 percent of all deaths are attributable to two common and preventable chronic illnesses: heart disease and cancer.

Some of the chronic illnesses the Intermountain researchers  explored were diabetes, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementia, as well as a range of cardiovascular diseases such as peripheral vascular disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, heart attack and failure.

They investigated a population sample of male and female primary care patients who had no history of chronic disease. The researchers developed the score among this group, and tested it in another, separate, primary care group. They found their tests resulted predictions that are 77 to 78 percent accurate.

Women who scored moderately on the ICHRON score were three times more likely to receive a chronic disease diagnosis compared with their low-score counterparts. Female patients with a high ICHRON score were 11 times more likely to develop, and be diagnosed with, a chronic disease.

Male patients with a high ICHRON score were 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic condition, compared with their lower-scoring peers. Additionally, those who scored moderately were 5.6 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of chronic illness.

“We hope ICHRON can be used to help identify patients who are at a higher risk for a chronic disease and therefore need more personalized care,” May said.  

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