Precision Medicine

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is a practice of individualizing medical treatment based on a variety of patient-specific characteristics, moving away from treatments based on the “average” patient.  Medical decisions are based on a patient’s genetics, disease characteristics, environment, and lifestyle.

Precision medicine vs. patient-centered medicine

Patient-centered medicine is the practice of individualizing medical care focused on involving the patient in treatment decisions.  Using patient-centered medicine, the healthcare professional will make a plan involving the patient’s needs, concerns, and preferences.  Precision medicine builds upon the patient centered foundation of behavioral and lifestyle aspects, but also incorporates physical, genetic, and environmental characteristics outside of the patient’s control to optimize treatment.

Precision Medicine Initiative

For precision medicine to be widely adopted and effective, the relationships between each patient characteristic (genetics, lifestyle, biological markers, activity, physiological measures, etc.) and their effects on a patient’s health needs to be understood.  The Precision Medicine Initiative, announced in the 2015 State of the Union Address, is a nationwide research effort to study a cohort of 1 million U.S. patients.  The initiative is still in its beginning stages and patient recruitment is ongoing.  In July 2016, Walgreens announced its patient enrollment efforts through in-person, online, and mobile app outreach.

The goals of the cohort program are:

  • Develop ways to measure risk based on environmental and genetic interactions
  • Identify causes of individual differences in response to medications
  • Discover biological markers that signal increased or decreased risk to develop diseases
  • Use of mobile health technologies to correlate activity, physiological measures and environmental exposures with health outcomes
  • Develop new disease classifications and relationships
  • Empower study participants with data and information to improve their own health
  • Create a platform to enable trials of targeted therapies

The Future of Precision Medicine

The future of healthcare is expected to be driven by precision medicine; elements of precision medicine, such as records in EHR and point-of-care testing, may impact future quality measures and provider reimbursement.  Pharmacists are expected to play a major role in patient monitoring, most obviously on medication adherence, outcomes, and adverse effects but could include genetics, lifestyle, and other health markers.

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