If precision medicine was having a moment the past few years, this year it’s having a minute.

Precision medicine — also known as personalized medicine — is transforming health care from being about many to focusing on one. Population health and precision medicine work hand in hand. Population health serves as the “who” to identify cohorts of patients who are at risk and require attention. And precision medicine is the “what,” arming providers with the specific information they need to create effective, individualized prevention and treatment plans.

As value-based care increases in importance and upside and downside risk-sharing between providers and payers becomes more common, precision medicine will play a pivotal role in effectively managing the health of populations. Precision medicine puts patients at the center of their own care, while also ensuring that information is shared easily between caregivers and clinicians.

Precision medicine is most commonly associated with genomics. While genomics and clinically oriented analysis are extremely valuable in implementing precision medicine as the next step in population health management, they are only one part of the big picture. Increasingly, the value of environmental, social and lifestyle factors is also getting recognized in the effective implementation of personalized medicine. For example, the federal government’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) focuses not just on genetics and biology, but also behavior and environment.

All of this would not be possible without the right technology to enable health systems and providers to personalize patient care. This technology must be adaptable, flexible, scalable and future-proofed so that it’s still relevant 5, 10 or 20 years from now as care models continue to evolve. This evolution will be powered by innovative data analytics and other technologies tied to population health and precision medicine that enable proactive management of potentially high-risk patients and lead to improved care coordination.

Leveraging data to enable personalized care
Making big data small is essential in order to personalize care. Today’s technology platforms can do that by capturing vast amounts of health data and applying real-time analytics, which provide information and tools that enable health systems and other health care organizations to make more effective, individualized treatment decisions. Having the largest variety of data sets possible optimizes therapeutic tracking of each patient’s care plan to make and refine diagnoses. This sets the stage for the most personalized therapy possible by detecting patterns in clinical assessments, behavior and outcomes. Using this data and information to engage patients and guide care management makes the journey from population health management to precision medicine that much easier, paving the way for an era of truly personalized medicine.

What’s driving precision medicine?
Many factors are converging that support the adoption of precision medicine and make it more robust, including:

• As health systems merge and acquire new hospitals and medical practices, a growing number of EMRs, EHRs and health information exchanges (HIEs) that cover a significant number of patients are becoming interconnected. With the right open technology solutions in place that enable interoperability and access to the right data, health systems can provide individualized prevention and treatment plans, which drives more effective population-health management.

• Patients are more interested in participating in their care, especially when they get access to their own data. There are myriad devices on the market that are relevant — from wearable devices that measure activity and sleep quality, to wireless scales that integrate with smart-phone apps, to medical devices that send alerts (such as pacemakers and insulin-level trackers). The data from these devices contribute to a robust longitudinal patient record, which providers can easily access with the right technological tools.

• mHealth advances allow consumer data to be captured using cell phone technology, and patients can be monitored remotely with telehealth and virtual consultations.

• Clinicians have the ability to see which inherited genetic variations within families contribute both directly and indirectly to disease development. By identifying a patient’s susceptibility to disease and anticipating how he or she will respond to a particular therapy, providers can identify the best treatment options for optimal outcomes. For more effective outcomes, providers can now adjust care plans and treatment protocols based on that data. Personalized medicine means anticipating patients’ needs with evidence and knowledge-based solutions. Precision medicine can make that goal a reality.

Bringing value from bench to bedside
Precision medicine is about aggregating all forms of relevant data to enable different types of real-time data explorations. There are two critical areas that need a very large number of data sets to produce results:

• Medical research with scientific modeling.
Precision medicine can be leveraged to advance the ways in which large data sets are collected and analyzed, which leads to new approaches to managing disease.

• Clinical applications.
Treatment plans and decisions can be greatly improved by identifying individuals at higher risk of disease, dependent on the prevalence and heritability of the disease. This is referred to as cognitive support at the point of impact. To support this approach, more control is needed in real time over macro variables such as genomics, proteomics, metabolism, medication, exercise, diet, stress, environmental exposure, social and behavioral factors and more. Precision medicine provides a platform that has an extensive number of data sets and the ability to easily create custom data sets to capture these types of variables.

Bringing value, improving lives
Tailoring deliverables to the needs of individuals is nothing new, at least in other fields such as banking and retail. Pioneers in these industries have leveraged open-source technology on a solid data foundation to meet their markets’ challenges. In health care, this capability is literally a matter of life and death. That’s why so many are working on a daily basis to accelerate the science behind precision medicine and to encourage its adoption. Precision medicine is nothing short of revolutionary, with the capacity to bring value to health care while changing lives for the better

The original article can be found at the HealthCareBusiness daily news site here.