Why you need to pay attention to precision medicine


Digital health pioneer Eric Topol talks about plans for a four-year precision medicine study at AHIP 2017.

One million Americans. That’s the number of people Eric Topol, MD, chief academic officer at San Diego-based Scripps Health and the author of “The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands,” wants to include in a four-year precision medicine study he plans to conduct; he anticipates that study participants will be part of follow-up for many decades to come.

Topol told Managed Healthcare Executive that he’s excited about this study because it’s going to leverage patient-generated genomic and sensor-based data. His goal? To deliver patient-specific information that will provide a level of granularity never before seen in medicine.

Recruiting for this study started in May, said Topol, who gave a presentation on June 7 called “The Future of Precision Medicine,” a general session at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute & Expo 2017 Institute & Expo, in Austin, Texas.

During his session, Topol highlighted the progress being made in precision medicine and pointed to the ability to capture metrics such as patients’ blood pressure via wearable devices-and he’s excited about the fact that all of this technology is connected to patients’ smartphones and can be shared with their care teams.

There’s also been a lot of progress in genomics in helping drive insight into pregnancy, for example, said Topol. Genomics can be used to determine the health of the baby and screen for any unknown diseases before a baby is conceived, he added.

He was equally passionate about the “gigantic role of artificial intelligence” on the future of precision medicine. Some of the areas where artificial intelligence has had the greatest impact, he said, was in clinical imaging interpretation, diabetes treatment, and cancer care.

There’s an increasing amount of data being generated about patients, and Topol said he wanted to get to a future state where patients truly own all of their medical data. Because of the recent spate of data breaches at health systems, he said that the appropriate place for this data to reside is with patients. He suggested that blockchain technology, a storage platform for securing data in a way that also allows users to control who has access to that data, or a private cloud could be the appropriate repository for this information.

Topol told MHE that payer and provider executives should be paying attention to precision medicine because more than $3.2 trillion is spent on healthcare in the United States each year-and one-third of that is due to waste. “It’s due to a lack of individualization of screening therapy, diagnosis, everything that we do that lacks recognition of each individual’s uniqueness,” he said.

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