Widespread precision medicine is still years away, experts say

While the industry is rapidly making progress on precision medicine, cultural, policy and regulatory changes are limiting momentum, industry leaders said at the Precision Medicine Summit on Monday.
By Jessica Davis
02:15 PM

BOSTON -- While the Office of the National Coordinator believes the dawn of precision medicine has started, when pressed on the current state of the innovative technology, technology leaders say that the industry is still years away from full utilization.

In fact, on a scale of one to 10, most would place precision medicine at a three in terms of progress.

“The landscape is changing so quickly and things [in the industry] have changed so much already,” University Of California, San Francisco Director of Research Strategy and Associate Director of Precision Medicine India Hook-Barnard said at the HIMSS Precision Medicine Summit in Boston on Monday.

[Also: How precision medicine can fix a broken healthcare system]

“That’s not to diminish the progress that’s already happened, but I also think there’s so much that’s going to be happening moving forward,” she said.

Pegasystems Director of Industry Principal Amy Simpson said there are tremendous accelerators like cost reductions that are helping make the shift to fully utilizing the technology. But real operational efforts are what will really fuel the precision medicine push.

To Stanford University Chief of General Primary Care Megan Mahoney, when considering how far along the industry is, it’s important to view it by function. While building big data is pretty advanced, genomics is still in the early stages.

[Also: Eric Dishman wants precision medicine to move from personal to universal]

“We have to recognize that only 1 percent of patients have access to [precision medicine],”said National Institutes Of Health All Of Us Research Program Director Eric Dishman. “Success plus results minus expectations… We’re still about 15 to 20 years out.”

The challenges to precision medicine are the same as the other issues facing the healthcare industry, said Simpson. “Effective EHR implementation and the shift to value based care are going to pose the same problem to implementing precision medicine.”

Providers really need to think about patient support. Simpson said that so much of the patient engagement framework and saturation will be “critical to keeping patients engaged throughout the life cycle.”

The realistic solution to some of these issues is the coordination, said Hook-Barnard. “It’s going to be about partnerships across multiple disciplines… It really is the regulatory, policy and cultural changes that are slowing us down.”

Organizations need to coordinate and forge those partnerships, which Hook-Barnard feels is one of the biggest challenges.

The revolution Mahoney sees will come with actively engaging our data and effectively bringing patients along, which will reduce costs.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com

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