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HIMSS18 Round-up: Why the Time for Precision Medicine is Now

March 14th, 2018

by Brad Herrick, PierianDx

Like most people who have been going to HIMSS for some time, both as an attendee and sponsor, I have been inspired by the hope of how technology can transform healthcare yet frustrated by the hype of buzzwords and unmet promises in our industry. However, at this year’s HIMSS the Precision Medicine Symposium offered a sober yet inspirational view of how precision medicine is transforming healthcare. Some of the highlights:

  • In his talk “Precision Medicine: Separating Hype from Reality,” John Halamka, MD, CIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, effectively outlined the criticisms, obstacles, progress, and benefits of precision medicine. While claiming that “precision medicine” is a marketing term that does not fully describe its value, he shares several real-world patient examples of how precision medicine has benefited patients. Halamka concludes that data analytics and universal interoperability are the key ingredients to accelerate precision medicine benefits for patients.
  • In his keynote talk “Precision Medicine at the Inflection Point,” Damon Hostin, CEO Precision Medicine Alliance, emphasized that moving precision medicine from “plausibility” to the standard of care for patients involves harmonizing datasets and workflow to better consume molecular data into existing data ecosystems. He presented a compelling case for trends that are making precision medicine initiatives imperative for health systems. Shifting incentives, technology advancements in genomic testing, and consumers’ growing expectations are some of the factors driving that imperative.
  • In his presentation, “Going from the Trail to the Summit in Precision Medicine,” Steven Kalkanis, MD, Medical Director of Henry Ford Cancer Institute at Henry Ford Health System, effectively described the convergence of research and routine clinical care for precision medicine. He emphasized the importance of incorporating both somatic and germline testing, and provided an interesting concept to describe the convergence of artificial intelligence and precision medicine. Kalkanis states that this convergence has the potential to turn many of us into “previvors,” that is, survivors of a predisposition (or increased risk) for a disease, such as cancer.  Genomic testing and precision medicine offer the promise to identify which of the 10,000 known human diseases are in our future, long before those symptoms begin. However, he also indicated that to make this vision a reality, data interoperability and incorporating molecular diagnostics into the workflow were essential.

The key takeaways from this insightful symposium were three-fold:

  • Precision medicine already benefits the lives of many patients and evidence is growing stronger each day
  • Now is the time for health systems to lay the data and workflow foundations to make precision medicine happen
  • The clinical lab’s molecular testing capability is a cornerstone to enabling precision medicine

At PierianDx, these takeaways ring loud and clear. Tomorrow’s promise of precision medicine is directly dependent on pillars we put in place today. Although making precision medicine a reality will be an arduous journey, the HIMSS Precision Medicine Symposium showed that it is one that is worthwhile.

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