The Push to Personalize Medicine

At the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow Forum, industry experts discuss how to increase the value of care through personalization.

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Imagine arriving for your doctor’s appointment with the usual stuff: your insurance card, copay and, of course, your genome mapped out on your iPad.

You may not have to imagine it for long. Experts at the U.S. News Hospital of Tomorrow forum discussed personalized medicine, which involves looking at patients’ genes to identify risk factors for various diseases.

While using gene sequencing seems to be valuable for patients, their families and medical institutions, the high cost seems to be slowing down its progression to the use by everyday patients. But as Gianrico Farrugia, director of the Center for Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic, pointed out: “It’s happening now. The future is now, it’s just uneven. This unevenness will level out.”

  • Gianrico Farrugia, said the primary value should be the needs of the patients, and “We can’t live up to it unless we turn to genomics.” Cue the clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine, which looks to patients’ genomic blueprints to determine aspects of their health. While he believes we should continue incorporating genomics, he said, “This trajectory is not fast enough for our patients … We have to work together to speed the process.”
  • The genome sequencing is valuable not just for the patient, but for their families and institutions as well, says Howard Jacob, director of the Human and Molecular Genetics Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. And we’re not far off from genome sequencing becoming a very real part of our lives. “This isn’t fantasy land,” said Jacob, who is also the founding director of the college’s Personalized Medicine program. He suspects that soon, patients will be show up for medical care with their genome mapped out on an iPad. “If you think that it’s a long way, I’m going to tell you: It’s an iPad away.”
  • While the need for pharmacogenomic testing is great, “Personalized, practical integration is the challenge,” said C. Wright Pinson, deputy vice chancellor for health affairs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. This push for personalized medicine prompted Vanderbilt to create two institutions: Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care and Treatment (PREDICT) and the Personalized Cancer Medicine Initiative. Pinson directs people who are interested in learning about their genome to the public website: mydruggenome.org.
  • Amy Caro, vice president of Health IT Programs for the Federal and Defense Technologies division of Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector, spoke of the crossroads between genomics and data. Using personalized healthcare and informatics, she said Northrop Grumman is a “data integrator,” which helps with leveraging knowledge.
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