Precision Medicine Enables Health Care Providers To Deliver Personalized Treatment
Research and Innovations Advancements in technology are making it easier for Canadians to become more engaged in their health.
nown as precision medicine, this emerging field allows health care providers to use personalized data to develop better treatment plans. The result is more effective care and a sense of patient empowerment.
You can already witness the effects of precision medicine within Canada’s health care system today. “An oncologist knows that not all patients respond the same way to chemotherapy,” Susan Anderson, Managing Director of Orion Health, says as she explains how genetic testing impacts cancer treatment. “They always have an array of different kinds of medication they can apply. Using the identification of a patient’s genome patterns, oncologists can get a little more specific in terms of targeting more effective therapy programs.”
“Apps on smartphones and devices like Apple Watch and Fitbit collect data on our exercise and sleep patterns and show us this information in an easy-to-digest form.”
Genomic testing represents just one facet of innovation within precision medicine. Research into the microscopic bugs living inside of us, known as the microbiome, is another. “With the ability to now analyze the components of the microbiome rapidly, doctors will have a much more accurate picture of the nature and type of bacteria in your body which can guide more accurate diagnosis and treatment strategies,” explains Gary Folker, Executive Vice President of Orion Health.
Many Canadians are already becoming more engaged in their health and lifestyle habits using wearable technology. “Apps on smartphones and devices like Apple Watch and Fitbit collect data on our exercise and sleep patterns and show us this information in an easy-to-digest form,” says Folker. “This knowledge can be an extremely helpful way for an individual to track and analyze their progress and take responsibility for their health.”
At the moment, health care providers don’t have access to all the data they need about a patient, like their genetic makeup, biological characteristics and lifestyle, to create an effective care plan. Canada must invest in the technology infrastructure required to support such data storage and access while maintaining strict privacy standards. “The data can only be accessed by the individual, their health care team, and people in their trusted circle of care such as a family member,” says Susan Anderson.
Once these databases are established, precision medicine can not only improve patient care but it also supports collaborative research across borders. U.S. President Barack Obama launched a $215-million Precision Medicine Initiative last year to support research and innovation. “We pool together so that researchers, practitioners, [and] scientists can share,” President Obama said during the White House Precision Medicine Initiative Summit in February 2016. “We may be able to accelerate the process of discovering cures in ways that we’ve never seen before.”