Just like online streaming giant Netflix uses behavior data to recommend movies and shows to customers, medicine is on the cusp of becoming that personalized in its approach.
“We are not applying that same kind of data understanding in healthcare today and we really should be, and will be in the future,” said India Hook-Barnard, director of research strategy and associate director of precision medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. “It will really be disruptive in the same way that we have seen with marketing, the way we’ve changed how we shop – the way we use data to do a better job is something we’ve done in many other realms of our lives, even down to what kind of movie Netflix suggests.”
Perhaps the promise of precision medicine will change that.
“The future of healthcare is being able to use data from a variety of areas, whether understanding the mechanisms of diseases when you are healthy, understanding better clinical care, understanding population health and the environment around that,” she said. “All of that different data will be better used and analyzed to then be able to give us better predictions and preventative measures, to keep us healthy and help with early diagnostics and screenings, and help us identify new drugs and therapies.”
Some of this has already begun, perhaps most popularly in cancer genomics. Scientists have been working on using information from a person’s genome, information both from their regular genome and their tumor genome, to better identify what is driving that cancer.
“Pulling data from other people to better understand that individual’s condition is key,” Hook-Barnard said. “Understanding what the driver is and identifying better treatments that have worked previously or maybe things that are not even approved for that specific cancer but are working on the same pathway so you might be able to repurpose the drug. It can really change the course of treatment. That is in the space of things happening now.”
In the realm of population health, there is an opportunity to better understand why in certain populations – whether it’s ethnic or ZIP codes – people may be at a higher risk of cancer or other diseases, she added.
“That might be genomic, but it might be environmental factors, they may have poor diets, they may be more or less receptive to public health messaging, so you might be able to get better, more precise public health messaging and be able to deliver that to a certain community,” she said. “But it can also be knowing that a given population is at a greater risk so you can do earlier diagnostics and screenings for certain diseases and then be able to be more effective in your surveillance of those people and be able to treat them earlier, which would be more effective to keep them healthy and treat them before it gets to a real dire situation.”
And treating people one can identify through genomics or population health measures at an earlier stage will also make healthcare more cost-effective, she said.
Hook-Barnard will discuss precision medicine issues at the HIMSS and Healthcare IT News Precision Medicine Summit, June 12-13, 2017, in Boston, during a session entitled “Precision medicine is more than genomics.”