Survey: Health execs not jumping on precision medicine

January 21, 2016

The precision medicine uptake is not as fast as predicted in healthcare organizations, but academic medical centers are jumping on board faster than others.

Precision medicine will not play a significant role in healthcare organizations in the coming years, according to the results of a new survey.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents to a survey by Health Catalyst said precision medicine will not play a significant role in their organizations in the next five years. Among respondents from nonacademic hospitals and health systems, the number who said precision medicine will play an average, small or non-existent role in their organizations between now and 2020 jumped to 68%.

Seventy-one percent of the academic respondents said precision medicine will play a significant role in their organizations in the next five years.

After President Obama announced a $215 million precision medicine initiative in his State of the Union address last year, many expected healthcare systems to increase precision medicine efforts.

Crockett“As-historically-expected, academic medical centers seem to be leading the healthcare industry when it comes to clinical use of DNA sequencing and precision genomics,” says David Crockett, PhD, senior director of research and predictive analytics for Health Catalyst.  “Is this really spreading into mainstream healthcare?  Maybe not as fast as the hype suggests.”

The tricky balance is between “standard care” and “tailored care” (precision medicine), according to Crockett. “It’s hard to standardize to evidence-based best practices, reducing variation and waste to save money-while expecting every patient to get treated a little differently because of DNA test results.”

Proponents of precision medicine envision healthcare organizations collecting and sequencing patients’ genomic data and using EHRs to generate analytical reports that physicians use to take note of genes related to hereditary diseases.

According to the survey, few organizations are building genomics capabilities into their electronic health record (EHR) systems. Sixty-three percent of respondents said their organizations had no plans to integrate genomic data into their EHRs.

The finding is striking considering that half of the survey respondents said they believe that DNA sequencing-the source of genomic data-could have a positive impact on their organizations’ patient treatment strategies.

Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have made the procedure, which cost up to $50,000 just a few years ago, relatively affordable at about $1,300, leading to broader use and important disease discoveries.

“This is a good prompt to pause and consider cost/benefit/ reimbursement of DNA data within your own health organization,” Crockett says. “Any ROI that I’m missing? Or is this still ‘out there’ a few years away from impacting us directly?

“If there is a healthy slice of your patients and/or organization that deals with cancer or pediatrics or other areas where gene panel work is increasing, this is important to pay attention to- both in terms of CAP [College of American Pathologists]/CLIA [Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments] lab certification and also for adequate reimbursement from payers,” Crockett adds.