Introducing Precision Medicine, on the Cusp of a Medical Revolution​

Introduction by Ian McCrae, CEO, Orion Health.

In the Victorian era a surgeon’s blood-stained uniform was a source of great pride because it showed medical expertise – the dirtier the coat, the more experienced the doctor.

Now we shudder at the thought of a clinician examining patient after patient in dirty clothes, transferring infection and disease from one to the other. It was archaic, and extremely dangerous.

After 23 years of creating information health systems for hospitals and primary care clinics around the world, I now consider the way we treat patient information to be as potentially harmful as those blood-stained surgeon’s aprons from 150 years ago. That’s because clinicians don’t have access to all the information required about a patient to create a treatment plan that directly addresses their unique personal circumstances and genetic make-up.

There is a growing body of research that is highlighting just how ineffective a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment can be. Research cited in the international weekly journal of science, Nature1, shows that the ten most popular drugs prescribed in the US only help a limited number of people – some as low as one in 25 patients.

A patient’s healthcare plan is being created based on insufficient information, because healthcare professionals aren’t able to take into account the multiple factors that influence a person’s healthcare, such as their medical record, genetic profile, environmental and social background.

Gathering all this personalised information together and making it accessible to a doctor in real time is called ‘Precision Medicine’ – the new revolution in healthcare.