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The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other high-income country, and yet, our health results are some of the worst.

In 2014, U.S. healthcare spending constituted 17.5 percent of total GDP, a number that’s expected to increase about four percent by 2025.

The current business model for healthcare is not sustainable. Costs are soaring in every aspect of the industry, especially on pharmaceutical drug prices, and neither politicians nor society can afford the recent hike.

It can cost up to $8 billion to bring a new drug to market and at least 10 years. “The current business model is just not sustainable and we have to have a more holistic approach,” said Arim Furtwaengler of Boehringer Ingelheim in the latest Knowledge by Wharton Paper, Precision Medicine: New Paradigms, Risks and Opportunities.

“The current situation for the pharmaceutical industry is very challenging, with lots of significant and dynamic changes coming from limited budgets of payer organization and governments, and ever increasing expectations and aspirations by patients, physicians, and society of what ‘modern healthcare, research and new technologies’ might potentially accomplish,” Furtwaengler said.

More than a Buzz Word: Precision Medicine

To better treat and prevent diseases, pharmaceutical companies, providers, payers, government entities, and technology leaders must join efforts to mainstream precision medicine.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.

The advent of precision medicine would entail changes to every facet of modern healthcare like FDA classifications, drug companies and diagnostics companies working together, full adoption of electronic medical records, and increasing accessibility to DNA editing and sequencing.

Arguably, the most progress in precision medicine has been made around cancer. Healthcare professionals can compare the sequence of a cancer patient’s healthy genome with the sequence of their tumor genome, identifying the existence and location of a cancer marker or specific mutation.

Jennifer Morrissette and the team at the Center for Personalized Diagnostics at the University of Pennsylvania says that cancer tumor DNA sequencing will become the standard of care in the next few years.

Beyond the Genome

In addition to DNA analysis, precision medicine examines the patient’s phenotype and how the patient interacts with his or her environment.

Joe Miles of SAP agrees, saying, “it’s not just about taking your drugs; it’s making sure that you’re eating right, exercising, being active, and having a good care circle.”  Wearable technology, e-health, and mobile health will play an integral role in keeping doctors and patients connected in and out of the office.

The Wharton Paper explains that precision medicine also considers commonalities between patients to help identify the best treatment options based on what has worked for others in the past.

Through CancerLinQ LLC, a wholly-owned nonprofit subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and SAP, cancer patients and their physicians can be informed by the data of nearly every patient treated before them.

CancerLinQTM is a state-of-the-art health information technology platform that leverages in-memory data management to analyze big data from a growing number of patient records.  Record data is accessible to practicing oncologists in a simple, easy to comprehend user interface.

ASCO CEO Clifford Hudis noted that with CancerLinQTM, “we can learn from the care given to 97% of adult patients who do not currently participate in clinical trials.”

An additional example is Grail, a startup in which Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have invested. This company is developing a cancer screening blood test for people even if they show no symptoms.

Information Technology Powers Precision Medicine

To implement wide adoption of precision medicine and eventually dramatically drive down healthcare cost, the healthcare industry must make a massive investment in new data systems, new business models, and new procedures, noted Thomas Wilckens of InnVentis.

Life sciences, especially, need to harness new technologies in order to speed the time-to-market, staying ahead of trends in precision medicine.

With technologies like SAP HANA we now have the power to comprehend various sources and formats of data in real-time.  Scientific texts, clinical studies, proteomic data, genomic data… across any language can be viewed to identify trends and patterns. With technologies that can store and analyze gargantuan data sets with accuracy and incredible speed, healthcare professionals can pull actionable insights to make more informed and better care decisions.

Petra Streng of SAP put it best, “without the speed of the data systems, and without the technical ability to look at all this information, no human brain can process millions and billions of iterations and compounds.  This is where IT needs to play a key role.”

It is the role of IT, politicians, healthcare professionals, insurance companies, and society as a whole to work together to make precision medicine the standard of care. Human lives are at stake.

You might also like:

The #BigData Revolution: Who Owns Our Data?

Why Care About Personalized Medicine? Your Life Could Depend Upon It.

Healthcare IT isn’t just buzz… it’s our future

Knowledge is Power: Why Educated Patients Live Longer

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