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The Wonders of Precision Medicine Depend on Superior Information Systems

Precision Medicine - future of health care

Precision Medicine represents a revolution in patient care, one that aspires to a newly precise and personalized practice of healthcare. But you may be very surprised to learn exactly what powers the possibilities of this brave new world.

In a future healthcare paradigm where every clinician practices precision medicine, all medical decisions, diagnoses, and treatment plans will be focused like a laser on the specific medical needs of each individual patient. This signifies nothing less than a revolutionary step in the practice of medicine, as up until now physicians would rely heavily on previously established group norms for treating each medical condition.

“Oh,” your doctor says, “You’ve tested positive for high cholesterol. Many patients with high cholesterol have responded well to statins, so I’m going to prescribe statins for your high cholesterol and we’ll see how it goes.”

But at a select group of world-class medical centers, physicians are already treating growing numbers of patients not based on previous patient-group behaviors, but on the basis of a precise genetic signature that is unique to each patient.

“Okay, I see from your genetic sequencing test that your PCSK9 gene is flawed,” your doctor at Penn Medicine might say. “Fortunately, we have a state-of-the-art solution producing extremely positive results for that exact genetic mutation, proving great success by solving and even precluding the problem at the cellular level.”

Focusing Diagnosis on DNA

At Penn Medicine, clinicians are already helping patients who manifest certain conditions caused by genetic aberrations, which illuminate both the nature of those conditions and there-fore how best to treat them. If a patient tests positive for an unexpected flaw in his genetic sequencing, the physician now knows that a combination of precise molecular medicine and lifestyle changes can produce better outcomes.

This breakthrough means that instead of trying one medication or another, practitioners of this newest kind of medicine sometimes have no need to try anything, because they know - at a genetic level - what will solve the problem right from the start. As a result, each Precision Medicine patient will be able to avoid being exposed to the effects of taking the wrong medicine - as well as the costs of doing so - and he or she will save invaluable time in the healing process by participating in the treatment plan that was precisely correct for that specific patient’s genetic signature right from the start.

Ironically, in order to make individualized and precise genetic diagnoses, the one thing you really need is a pool of many patient genetic records for comparison and analysis purposes.

A very, very deep pool.

Data Makes It All Possible

“Ideally, a medical system would have access to a genetic-signature database of millions of patients,” suggests Brian Wells, Associate V.P. Health Technology and Academic Computing at Penn Medicine. “This would make all research challenges possible from a statistical point of view, even the most obscure, and would inform molecular solutions with the highest level of precision.

“Here at Penn Medicine, we are indeed fortunate that we can offer our physicians and their patients who need the critical benefits of precision medicine - in cancer care, in heart care, in women’s health, and now in new frontiers - the ability to compare and contrast their genotypes against the massive body of genetic science accrued in our proprietary database, one that has been evolving for over ten years.”

And of absolutely equal importance, he and his team have done so in the right way.

“We pride ourselves in maintaining the privacy of each and every patient, and at the same time in conforming to every single aspect of all HIPAA regulations.” Mr. Wells nods as if to emphasize the weight of his words. “So while we have historically made a great investment in people, process, and technology to enable these opportunities, all this has only been possible because every past patient was given the reassurance of knowing his or her personal identification would be scrubbed from our research database.”

“And this, in turn, is enabling the amazing potential of precision medicine,” he says with a smile. “The wondrous results we’re seeing now in successfully fighting cancers through next-phase treatments like immunotherapy are only the beginning.”

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The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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