Precision medicine – tailored treatments and therapies based on a person’s genetic makeup – has been a hot topic in healthcare for a few years now. Since President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative was first introduced in 2015, scientific knowledge and technological advances in genomics have significantly accelerated, enabling targeted therapies.
Today, targeted therapies are shifting from research to clinical use cases. What’s more, analytics, data sharing networks and million-person cohorts are beginning to provide vast quantitative and qualitative data to move precision medicine initiatives further forward.
However, despite these advances, health care organizations have struggled with how to fully employ precision medicine programs. At the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas, Aetna Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Harold L. Paz, M.D., M.S., spoke on the “Steps Along the Trail to The Precision Medicine Summit” panel. He joined Jay Wohlgemuth from Quest Diagnostics and Jonathan Hirsch from Syapse to discuss the progress and obstacles specific to precision medicine.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main obstacles cited as part of the panel was the massive healthcare data interoperability issue. “Why can’t patients have personalized health information,” asked Aetna’s Dr. Paz. “Questions like this speak to the volume of problems we have.”
While providers have growing access to more and more data, this data is typically only beneficial to the provider, not the patient. Too often patients are unable to access pertinent health information, preventing them from being able to make informed, actionable decisions when it comes to their health.
The panel also explored the critical need for payment mechanisms to evolve alongside precision and value-based medicine. Patients must have the coverage options to pay for the testing required for precision medicine programs. To empower our patients to do just that, Aetna has roughly 1,700 value-based contacts with ACOs, providers, pharma and medical device companies.
In that vein, the panel also focused on the importance of patients retaining their health insurers through building trust with their healthcare ecosystem. Historically, the health insurance churn rate is approximately 20 percent annually. And yet, for precision medicine to be viable in the long-term, member retention must be prioritized.
While the panel conversation appropriately focused on many of the hurdles and roadblocks on the path to precision medicine, great hope remains that precision medicine provides an enormous opportunity to align diagnosis with treatment and health outcomes, creating tremendous value for real people and for the industry.