- Precision Medicine
- Precision Medicine
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As with many new inventions, expensive procedures and not-widely-accepted treatments there aren’t too many people or organizations willing to jump on the bandwagon and implement changes. This is part of why precision medicine in healthcare hasn’t made as big of a splash as some would hope that it could, and possibly will in the future. But, there is a future for precision medicine and medical care because the impacts and benefits are proving to be very advantageous to the healthcare community.
Luckily, there are many teaching hospitals, usually associated with universities, that are capable and willing to take on and capitalize from a new branch of understanding in healthcare science. But, this is not small feat for any healthcare organization because there are vast amounts of data that have to be collected, stored and analyzed in order to produce useable and shareable information for patient care.
Precision medicine, as it is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), states that it is “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” What this translates to for healthcare organizations is a healthcare registry with the genetic information of everyone who wants to participate, which is an enormous task seeing as there are millions of points of data that make up DNA. The ability to store and then recall the data requires data warehousing space that is not an inexpensive thing to purchase and maintain.
On the other hand, the cost of drafting a human’s genome sequence is following the trend of many other technological advances and coming down in cost. Just a year and a half ago, the cost was around $4,000, but within a few months the cost had fallen to just below $1,500 and could decrease even further over time. This cost savings is making precision medicine in healthcare a lot more realistic and possible.
As more people participate and as more is discovered about genes and genetic differences, the more accurately physicians will be able to treat each patient. For example, Duke University has been able to correlate genetic differences and the need for a specific type of cancer treatment that had been seen as too aggressive for early stages of certain kinds of cancers. However, when starting some patients early with chemotherapy, the outcomes were astounding and long-term diagnoses turned out much better than patients who weren’t treated early on with chemotherapy.
Cases like specific types of cancer and particular patients is what changes general medical practices to personalized ones, and can also make it difficult for physicians to explain why they are treating different patients differently, but as more information is discovered and as more patients receive precision medical care, the more understanding will reach the population. This isn’t some sort of fountain of youth or cure for every ailment; this is just getting us closer to eliminating guess work for treatments, being able to predict medical needs and care, and improve the outcomes of most if not all patients.
Precision medicine in healthcare may require doctors and other health professionals to change their way of thinking because medical care has been some trial and error, a lot of reading up on professional journals and articles and some sharing of information with peers. The addition of the Internet has changed that limited peer group to include physicians and experts from around the world. Also, the change from having patient’s records as a hard copy located only at one office. Now, with the mandate that all patient’s medical history be digitized and available when necessary allows for improved care because accurate data is immediately available. This can be the difference between life and death with someone that is admitted into an emergency room where the staff knows very little about that individual’s past medical issues. Being able to know that a patient is diabetic and is allergic to latex can not only indicate where problems might lie ahead for the staff, but may also avoid complications as they are treating that patient.
The healthcare community doesn’t have all the answers right now, but they are working towards making a real difference in the way they see each patient, how that individual will be cared for differently, and what specific needs should be handled in a unique manner. Precision medicine in healthcare is in its infancy, with many growing pains to come, but this doesn’t mean that this isn’t the right approach. As more success is found, and more people participate in a DNA registration, and as further discoveries are made in genome sequencing, the more positive outcomes will be seen with patients and the more long-term benefits can be experienced by everyone.
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