We each know that we are unique in certain ways, we even flaunt these differences more and more. We also know that these unique qualities are more than skin deep. In fact, the healthcare community wants to see you all the way down to your genes. Precise Medical Care, as defined by the National Institutes of Health says, “[It is] an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” More simply stated: medical care that is individualized.
General practice has been that most everyone is the same on the inside, and most of the same symptoms indicated the same disease and thus deserved the same treatments. This kind of mentality is an acceptable way of providing care because it serves to benefit a good portion of the population. However, acceptable is not the word most healthcare professionals would like to have listed under their ratings score. Added to that, patients have a higher expectation in outcomes with all the technological advances that are being seen in medicine.
The concept of precise medical care isn’t terribly new: the matching of donner tissue and blood types to help a patient have the best possible outcome to procedures. With the understanding that is being gained every day when it comes to genes and gene therapy, doctors are moving toward a better matching system of treatment for each patient. To one day be able to practice medicine based on an individual’s characteristics is an amazing thought, but it takes a lot more than good throughs and well-intentioned people. Hard work is being applied each day to move away from a one-size-fits-all mentality in medicine.
Precise medical care has even caught the attention of the President and he addressed this in his State of the Union speech in 2015, where he talked about and backed up the need to move in this new direction by dedicating $215 million on research and tools to make this effort more obtainable. The press release stated in part:
”Advances in precision medicine have already led to powerful new discoveries and several new treatments that are tailored to specific characteristics of individuals, such as a person’s genetic makeup, or the genetic profile of an individual’s tumor. This is leading to a transformation in the way we can treat diseases such as cancer. Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as well as melanomas and leukemias, for instance, routinely undergo molecular testing as part of patient care, enabling physicians to select treatments that improve chances of survival and reduce exposure to adverse effects.”
One of the greatest differences with precise medicine care is the fact that physician and medical professionals are playing less of a guessing game as to what would help their patient most. For example, when a patient is diagnosed with cancer, instead of immediately starting a patient on a general dose of medicines and treatments, the physician would order genetic testing for that patient. From there, the doctor could then see what medicines worked best for the patient’s specific conditions as it relates to their genetic makeup. This would allow the doctor to remove treatments that haven’t seen true success in patients with similar genetic structures. And, when you can eliminate wasted time, energy and ineffective treatments, the likelihood of more positive outcomes improves greatly.
We all know that family history can play a large part in our own lives. Some of us inherited high blood pressure or higher tendency for skin cancer from our parents and grandparents. Some of us also live in cities with bad air quality or toxic substances found in the ground. Both of these factors are exactly what precise medicine care is looking at. When detailed information is available and present, a medical professional is able to factor that into current and future needs for that patient. There is a predictable path that a patient may be on due to these underlying elements. This one aspect can help put patients on the offense instead of always playing defense to diseases and ailments.
Information is key when working with and toward precise medical care. Sometimes that information is external and a lot of times it is internal. The healthcare industry has moved away from treating everyone as a carbon copy, and as technology, especially gene therapy, progresses and is better integrated into healthcare treatments and processes, we will see more and more individualistic medical care, with better outcomes for each patient. It won’t all happen overnight, but it will happen.