As the digital age continues to profoundly reshape industries and redefine possibilities, nowhere is the impact of digital felt more palpably than precision medicine. This field is a long-promised frontier of medicine. It represents a paradigm shift from a traditional approach to one offering the ability to diagnose patients with deep specificity, customizing treatments like a made-to-measure suit. It offers clinical utility for patients and financial and reputational rewards for health systems. And this reality is here now. For patients, precision medicine and its cutting-edge technologies have reached a level of maturity that changes how we diagnose and treat, sometimes even before symptoms occur. For health systems, new financial opportunities are opened by managing and curating the generated data. Digital precision medicine is a rare win-win that both improves patient care and the financial health of healthcare providers.
Clinical professionals have welcomed the advent of precision medicine. But it is imperative that all health system leaders embrace the full capabilities rooted in digital processes. Success with precision medicine requires that health systems navigate, with strong governance, the vast amount of discrete data required to drive maximum benefit.
For health system leaders, the time to embrace a coordinated enterprise precision medicine strategy is now—and digital is a critical part of the equation.
Precision medicine’s digital underpinnings
Fundamentally, precision medicine is about customizing medical treatments using individual patient data. For instance, with a small blood sample, we can determine the best drug for a patient based on how the individual metabolizes that drug. Or we can diagnose cancer more quickly and accurately.
These patient data are the fuel that propels the engine of precision medicine. The factors include everything from patient lifestyle, genetics, health history, laboratory data, and real-time biomarkers. Bringing all these together can drive value for both patients and health systems. It is a challenge marked by complexity and sheer volume. Although it may seem impossible to make this data usable, a thoughtful digital strategy including precision medicine makes it a reachable goal.
Part of that strategy is determining the right partners. There are many solutions in the marketplace, from those native in the electronic health record to niche systems. By having a plan on how to best use the data—whether clinical improvement, research, or population health—providers can determine what is best for their needs and those of their community.
Paving the way for precision medicine
Health systems are at the core of precision medicine—they are stewards for the patient data needed for a longitudinal, real-world data set. Proper management of this data and thoughtful data strategies are not just vital for the clinical integration of precision medicine technologies, but are also key to unlocking additional opportunities like research collaborations and digital health partnerships. Health systems like Cedars-Sinai1 and Geisinger2, for instance, partner with biopharma to help fast-track drug discovery and development based on real-world data—but such partnerships are only possible if that data is properly captured, stored, and organized.
Many health systems have already begun precision medicine work: genetic screening, diagnostic testing, and tumor profiling.These same health systems are seeing revenue opportunities from their efforts, while simultaneously yielding valuable clinical insights into their patient population. It is easy to see that precision medicine is not merely a valuable clinical activity, but an asset that can be leveraged to differentiate in the market for both consumers and potential research partners.
Unlocking value now while preparing for the future
Early precision medicine activities need not immediately be reimbursed to drive value. But finding value requires that health systems be coordinated and aligned to a digital strategy that includes long-term data goals. Without this in place, the services can easily and accidentally become underutilized. For each precision medicine activity, system leaders should have a keen understanding of their strategy, evaluating each opportunity against their long-term roadmap, including the technical infrastructure, data architecture, and governance maturity. It is possible, and the benefits are great.
From the time the human genome was completely sequenced in 2003, we’ve seen a leap forward in both precision medicine and the technology that enables it. Leadership teams will need to understand the impact this has on future business models, both to treat a patient, and to help develop those very same treatments. The data already collected today from diagnostic testing, as well as those from emerging technologies like artificial intelligence will be used to create insights on both sides of the ecosystem.
It is only by recognizing precision medicine as a fundamentally digital and deeply strategic domain that health systems, digital health companies, and researchers can align themselves for success and ensure that they—and their patients—stand to benefit to the fullest extent.
Amberly Diets, MHA, is a Director at AVIA under the Center for Care Transformation with a focus on Precision Medicine. In this role, she leads the digital portfolio development in genomics, proteomics, pharmacogenomics, and other personalized medicine initiatives. Amberly has over 10 years of progressive experience inside and outside the health system including patient access, revenue cycle, medical scribe leadership, process improvement and redesign, implementation, change management, research, and genomics.
Prior to this role, Amberly was the Director of Clinical Research and Genomics at Renown Health, where she was responsible for the organization’s research portfolio and the Healthy Nevada Project, a state-wide community population health genomics program. She has also held leadership positions partnering with health systems on implementation science and process redesign to promote provider efficiency and satisfaction.
She holds a Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from The University of Virginia. She is an active member of American College of Healthcare Executives where she has held executive board seats as a director, secretary, and a co-chair for the membership committee.