Precision Medicine – Part IV – Adoption by Patients and Health Care Professionals

Adoption by Patients and Health Care Professionals

Precision Medicine leverages the most innovative technology advances in the field of genetics. The concept is “en vouge”! We know that the science will give us increasingly better treatment options. I have covered this in my previous blog post. But does it really matter? Precision medicine only will become a reality if both patients and the health care professionals treating them will act on the information at hand.

So, where do we stand currently on this issue?

In this context, a recent study published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, provides some helpful insights into this subject matter from researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The study interviewed nearly 7,000 people including members from the general public, genomic researchers as well as genetic and non-genetic health professionals from more than 75 countries around the world about their preferences on receiving genomic information.

1. The clear majority of participants want to be informed or believe they should be informed about pertinent or incidental findings from genome studies.

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2. However, for the most part the survey participants didn’t think that genomic researchers should actively search for incidental findings that are not relevant to the specific research work.

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3. Genomic health care professionals are more conservative than any other stakeholder group when discussing certain types of genomic information with their patients.

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The results of the last question are in line with my experience talking to researchers, clinicians and health care professionals who are working with patients. There is a reluctance to discuss findings outside of their field of expertise for two main reasons:

  • Staying within a particular field of expertise: A specialist in cancer diagnostics is not comfortable to discuss bio-markers that are indicative of a hereditary disease that might affect the patient’s brain functions in 20 years. The field of medicine is too specialized and the risk of malpractice lawsuits is high. So, there is a preference to “stick to what you know”.
  • Time: Most health care professionals are working in a system that doesn’t allow them spend a lot of time on issues that are not immediately related to the problem at hand.

The upshot of this very interesting and relevant study is that the general public, health care professionals and researchers are in agreement; pertinent genomic findings should be considered when dealing with illness and disease. And while there is a preference in the health care community to stick to the issue at hand with hesitance to discuss broader issues not related to serious health problem, the mutual agreement to move Precision Medicine forward is clear.

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