Precision medicine, a relatively new concept in health care, could dramatically change the way hospitals provide treatment to patients. In some cases, it’s already been proven to reduce readmission rates and improve patients’ recovery.
With precision medicine, treatments are customized based on specific genetic or molecular characteristics that groups of patients share.
Although the concept is still in its infancy, advances in DNA testing over the past few years are making it more attainable for hospitals to use in their treatment arsenals.
Several research studies have been completed about the effectiveness of precision medicine in a variety of areas, including prescribing medications to patients.
One recent study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, showed just how effective precision medicine can be with administering prescription drugs.
According to a news release about the study, researchers collected health data from high-risk patients aged 50 and older who were admitted into a home healthcare program after being discharged from the hospital. Each patient was previously prescribed an average of 11.6 different medications.
Participating patients were given pharmacogenetic testing, which helps determine whether certain drugs are more or less effective based on the person’s genetic makeup. Pharmocogenetic testing can also help providers see if patients are more likely to suffer adverse reactions to certain drugs or drug combinations.
The results of the testing were used in conjunction with a precision prescribing software called YouScript that helped providers decide which medications were best suited for each patient by recommending appropriate alternatives.
When compared with a control group where patients were given medications based on standard drug information resources, the patients who received precision prescribing services had much better outcomes. Precision medicine contributed to a 52% reduction in readmissions, a 42% reduction in visits to the emergency department and an 85% decrease in deaths.
In addition, cost savings were estimated at over $4,380 per patient after merely 60 days of the study.
Theory in practice
Some health systems have already put precision medicine into practice for patients. Last summer, South Dakota-based Sanford Health began working with a third-party vendor, Translational Software, to provide pharmacogenetic services to all its hospitals and clinics in nine states, according to an article in Med City News.
With the help of its electronic health record (EHR) software, Sanford Health takes genetic information obtained via tests performed on patients and uses it to provide tailored suggestions for prescription drugs to treat heart conditions, cancer, depression and other illnesses.
Inova Health System in Virginia has a similar program in place, but on a smaller scale than Sanford Health’s initiative.
As the use of precision medicine grows in popularity, it’s likely hospitals will be tasked to give patients more treatment options that are increasingly tailored to their individual needs. So it’s worth exploring whether similar technology and testing would be feasible for your facility to use in the future.