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Providers aim to find the right formula for precision medicine

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The transformative promise of precision medicine is often cited as the driving reason why healthcare organizations need to begin their own clinical genomics programs. But has precision medicine technology reached a point where pioneering provider organizations can realize a return on their investments?

Finding the path forward is critical to success in delivering the benefits of precision medicine to patients. A new study from KLAS, Precision Medicine Provider Validations 2018 – Part 2, asks providers what vendors have to offer and what best practices are moving precision medicine forward for them.

Nearly three-quarters of the providers interviewed for the study do not believe the electronic medical record will play a primary role in the future of precision medicine, with several citing inherent deficiencies within EMRs as root causes. Respondents believed that peers looking to begin a journey into precision medicine should focus on niche vendors that have the experience and capabilities needed to address the specific challenges inherent in precision medicine.

Most interviewed organizations said that a precision medicine program does provide a positive return on investment. Currently, executives at successful organizations believe that having a precision medicine program enables them to treat patients holistically, which in turn leads to much greater patient satisfaction and retention.

Among those pursuing a value-based care model, some have found that precision medicine successfully lowered their costs by helping determine patients’ genetic risk factors and engaging them in successful treatments that help keep them out of the hospital. Other organizations have also seen value in offering patients treatments utilizing genetic testing for infectious diseases, tumors and rare diseases, as well as offering pharmacogenetic testing to determine the best treatment for patients.

Nearly nine in 10 early precision medicine adopters are satisfied with their vendors. Many, even among those few who are currently dissatisfied, are confident that their vendors will continue to make improvements to the products over the next year.

Many interviewed organizations state they are currently working directly with their vendors as development partners and thus are the recipients of much more vendor communication and support than is typical across most segments measured by KLAS. Those few that are less satisfied than the majority believe that the technology offered by their vendors has not advanced to the level they initially were led to expect, with gaps remaining in integration, data display, and reporting capabilities and functionality limitations within the various systems.

While vendors as a whole are positioning themselves to support the entire workflow in labs, clinics and at the researcher’s desk, most buying considerations and adoption currently trends toward point-solution purchases. While we’ve only begun to dig into the “why” behind this, much of this trend appears to come from confusion around which pieces should be hosted in-house and which pieces get outsourced.

That said, our research has uncovered some insights for emerging precision medicine strategies:

Plan on upgrading your storage. As many early adopters of applied genomics programs are learning, a robust precision medicine program means using hundreds (if not thousands) of terabytes of data. One provider I spoke with put it this way: “We’re considering getting cloud support. A whole genome is a terabyte of data, and we need to find a cost-effective way of storing that much data for hundreds of thousands of patients.”

Don’t expect the EMR to do the heavy lifting. It’s tempting to lean heavily on your EMR vendor to accomplish some of tasks required in an applied genomics program. However, providers we spoke with found that EMR vendors simply haven’t shifted to fill the role they will eventually need to in the future of precision medicine. An executive KLAS spoke with said it best: “We look at the vendor’s role as evolving. The EMR is the substrate that runs everything. We need it, but we have to supplement and reconfigure it. We have to make the workflow easier. EMRs were built as data tools, not as repositories of paper information.”

Most of the organizations we spoke with for our report believe that precision medicine programs provide a positive return on investment. Organizations, particularly those pursing a value-based care model, found precision medicine models to reduce the cost of care.

One provider KLAS spoke with explained it this way: “If an organization has a robust clinical-trial program, the organization will see ROI pretty quickly. If there are a lot of patients who participate in the studies, then the organization will see a return more quickly. However, getting ROI takes at least two years.
While precision medicine is far from a mature market, a clear path to success is finally beginning to form for healthcare organizations.

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