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Healthcare Data

 Precision Health Will Require Both High Touch and High Tech

precision health, population health management, healthcare data analytics

Stanford Medicine Precision Health has a bold vision for medicine:

Over the past century, the focus in medicine – and academic medicine – has been on the diagnosis and treatment of acute diseases. Although shining our brightest light on treating the most complex conditions has resulted in many medical advances, patient care has often been fragmented and has lacked specificity.

We have within our grasp the ability to completely change this approach. From cancer to cardiac diseases, from neurological diseases to inborn errors of metabolism in infants, from food allergies to heart transplantation – our advances in diagnostic methodologies and therapies will lead to the most precise molecular diagnoses and to treatments that are individually tailored based upon these diagnoses.

So how do we move toward this bold vision for medicine? What are the critical steps to make precision health a reality?

Precision health will require both high touch and high tech.

High Touch: Patient-Centered Care

Many believe that true precision health is not about tailored therapies to cure diseases once they have occurred, but rather to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This focus requires radical patient-centered care and a high touch approach that includes:

  • Reviving the patient-provider relationship model from a bygone era, where the connection and communication between the patient and doctor was a critical aspect of care and healing.
  • Changing the way hospitals are designed and run to better accommodate patients’ needs and create a healing supportive environment.
  • Accommodating patients’ desires to be engaged in their care and customizing care to patients’ needs, values and choices.
  • The inclusion of family and friends as part of the care team.
  • Freely sharing information among the care team, including providers, patients, caregivers and care partners.
  • Acknowledging and leveraging the role the Internet plays in changing the way patients learn about and engage with health and medical information.


High Tech: Data & Genomics

Initiatives like the $130 million Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program – part of former President Obama’s precision health initiative being conducted by the National Institute of Health – are changing the way data is collected and used to advance the goals of precision health.

The goal of the initiative is to study the health records of more than 1 million people to learn which individuals respond to certain types of drugs, are at risk for a certain disease, maintain health and fitness, age and die. The anonymous data from all 1 million individuals will be made available to any interested researcher who wants to study one of the largest medical research cohorts ever.

Genomic data combined with other forms of data, including clinical and claims data, will play a major role in precision health. An executive report by IBM entitled Precision Health and Wellness: The Next Step for Population Health Management states, “from an analysis of the projected state of healthcare by 2020, we believe that population health management will converge with precision medicine, which incorporates genomic data to personalize optimal treatments for individual patients, to create an entirely new paradigm in healthcare services.”

In fact, 60% of respondents surveyed for the IBM report said that genomic data tops their needs by 2020, underscoring this predicted intersection between population and precision health.

Leveraging multiple data sources to create smart data that can deliver personalized care to patients will require new collaborations which we are already seeing form between physicians, engineers, computer scientists and business leaders, among others.

Additionally, the continued advancement of private and public health information exchanges will continue to bring together patient data from disparate sources to provide a more holistic view of the patient.

Next Steps

I’m sure we can all agree that healthcare is undergoing a radical transformation. It’s impossible to say where we’ll end up, but it’s clear that healthcare data will be part of our journey. Bringing the patient back into the care model will also be critical if we are to realize the promise of precision health, as data alone will not get us there.

Kim Carlson is Regional Vice President of Business Development at INTELLIMED, a healthcare data analytics company. 

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