While the Obama administration has made its Precision Medicine Initiative a priority, the vast majority of healthcare organizations are taking a wait-and-see approach to implementing personalized medicine, according to a new survey from HIMSS Analytics.

Only 29 percent of respondents are conducting precision medicine within their organizations, the survey found. Results were based on a web-based survey of 137 chief medical information officers and chief medical officers, physicians, biomedical directors and pathology directors.

At the same time, HIMSS Analytics discovered that precision medicine programs are more likely to be in place at larger, research-based organizations such as academic medical centers (35 percent), multi-hospital health systems (25 percent) and organizations with more than 500 beds (41 percent).

“A lot of the larger organizations in healthcare that are more sophisticated from an IT and clinical standpoint are the ones leading the charge in precision medicine,” says HIMSS Analytics Director of Research Brendan FitzGerald.

According to FitzGerald, most organizations (79.5 percent) conducing precision medicine are focused on cancer, which he contends is not surprising given that cancer is a genome disease and that a large amount of PMI’s funds have gone to the National Cancer Institute. Nonetheless, precision medicine is also being conducted in other areas, such as neurology (38.5 percent) and cardiology (28.2 percent).

Still, the 2016 HIMSS Analytics Precision Medicine Essentials Brief revealed that providers are facing difficult health IT challenges. In fact, more than 60 percent of those surveyed indicated that the most significant hurdle when conducting precision medicine is clinical data systems integration and the integration of clinical and genomic data, underscoring the need for additional electronic health record integration and functionality.

These health IT hurdles help explain why the implementation of precision medicine programs and adoption of precision medicine-specific solutions by organizations is currently limited, asserts FitzGerald.

Going forward, there are four areas that HIMSS Analytics anticipates will be influenced by precision medicine programs as these technologies are adopted in healthcare: population health, clinical analytics, EHR solutions, and partnerships with academic and professional organizations.

“The need for clinical data integration between precision medicine data/solutions and the patient record will be essential in the future,” states HIMSS Analytics. “As the move toward population health grows and access to patient genomic data becomes more essential, EHR solutions will need the ability to harness that data for the holistic patient record and incorporate it into the clinician workflow.”

When it comes to clinical analytics, a separate 2016 HIMSS Analytics Clinical and Business Intelligence Essentials Brief found that about 43 percent of organizations have adopted this type of analytics.

“As precision medicine programs grow in number, it is possible the use of precision medicine capabilities and information could become more widespread, trickling down to smaller healthcare organizations as clinical analytics adoption and sophistication increases,” according to HIMSS Analytics.

In addition, the study found that current precision medicine efforts are currently focused on disease prevention and early disease diagnosis, but future initiatives will emphasize patient risk assessment, complimenting the industry move toward population health management.

About 67 percent of healthcare organizations employ population health initiatives, primarily focused on chronic disease management and preventive health and wellness, according to a 2015 HIMSS Analytics Population Health Essentials Brief.

“The increased collection and analysis of genomic, lifestyle and environmental data could help drive improved outcomes for large patient populations at a faster rate,” concludes HIMSS Analytics.

FitzGerald adds that population health right now is “all the rage” and that precision medicine will be a big part of that as a way of “specifying treatments to individuals” based on the results ultimately gleaned from the PMI cohort of 1 million or more U.S. volunteers. “That is essentially population health, and treatments will be developed on that basis,” he concludes.

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