Precision medicine contains promise, but is also surrounded by hype

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Precision medicine is still in its early stages, yet it is starting to make an impact on everyday care in medical practices, and it will only grow in importance.

“Precision medicine is here today and here to stay,” says John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess System, which includes Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston.

During an educational session at HIMSS 18, Halamka will team with Paul Cerrato, a contributing writer for Medscape and Medpage Today to assess the promise of precision medicine as well as continuing skepticism within the provider community.

Precision medicine is a method for figuring out a more personalized approach to the treatment of each patient, Cerrato says. For example, a patient may have a 10 percent risk of heart disease because of the prevalence of a particular gene, but the real threat is a high stress lifestyle and poor diet. Consequently, a while a physician may pay attention to the patient’s cholesterol levels, the core health focus may be on on the patient’s stress levels and high salt intake.

In another example, a physician may be justified in having concerns with a patient’s heart health, Halamka notes, but for that patient, the core treatment protocol may have to focus on a gene that represents a very high risk of getting cancer. That’s what precision medicine is—getting to what matters most.

During the session, Cerrato will contrast the differences between personalized medicine and precision medicine and point out barriers such as costs, data overload, interoperability and physicians who today struggle with trying to determine the value and limitations of precision medicine and if the cost is justified.

“The bottom line is that precision medicine is a work in progress, but there is enough evidence to believe precision medicine is here to stay,” Cerrato says.

Session 98: Precision Medicine: Separating Hype from Reality,” is scheduled on March 7 at 8:30 a.m. in Room Galileo 901.

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