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Precision Medicine Programs Becoming a High Priority for Health Systems

October 5, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A recent survey of health system leaders has revealed that developing a precision medicine program within their organization has become an important priority.

The research, conducted by The Health Management Academy in Alexandria, Va., identified a rapid investment by leading healthcare systems in precision medicine programs, with significant expectations of the impact of real-world outcomes on physician decision making.

The survey included participation from 21 chief medical officers and oncology leaders from healthcare systems that operate or own 296 hospitals that average 2.9 million annual admissions. The respondents were specifically queried on their awareness, integration, and operationalization of precision medicine at their respective institutions.

Some of the survey’s most significant takeaways include:

  • The majority (60 percent) of health systems indicated that developing a precision medicine program was a high (25 percent) or essential (35 percent) priority for their organizations’ aims. Just 5 percent responded that it was a low priority, with 5 percent also responding that it was not needed.
  • While 43 percent of respondents reported that they are currently implementing a precision medicine program, 19 percent said that such a program had been implemented in their health system in the last year. A precision medicine program was at least a year old in 10 percent of responding health systems. Just 9 percent said they are not considering a precision medicine program.
  • The leaders expect real-world outcomes data to have a significant bearing on physician decisions for the most complex oncology cases. Along those lines, 60 percent of respondents indicated that their health system is involved in a cancer data-sharing collaboration.

Oncology is the most common area in which health systems have implemented precision medicine, with 83 percent of responding CMOs indicating their health system has developed, or expects to develop a precision medicine program in this area. Other areas of focus for precision medicine include cardiology (33 percent), neurology (33 percent), epidemiology (33 percent) and prenatal (33 percent).

Overall health systems are prepared to build a precision oncology program, with more than two-thirds (69 percent) of responding health systems reporting they are very (37 percent) or somewhat (32 percent) prepared to build a precision oncology program, including establishing molecular tumor boards, developing common protocols, and educating oncologists.

With a primary focus in the oncology space, 89 percent of respondents said that they expect precision oncology to improve patient outcomes, help enroll and retain patients in their program, and also assist clinical trial accrual.

What’s more, with respect to software use to implement a precision medicine program, while 70 percent believe they need to invest in such technology, only 30 percent indicated they had allocated a budget for such software. The decision on which vendors to choose was driven by: clinical trial matching; clinical decision support; molecular tumor board support; data sharing across networks; data warehousing and analytics.

The leaders who responded to the survey did express concern that their oncologists did not always order the most appropriate molecular diagnostic tests (73 percent) or may lack in ability to accurately interpret the molecular information from these tests to guide their choice of the targeted treatment for the patient (63 percent).

And, when queried on reimbursement policies, half the respondents indicated the need for automation of prior authorization to improve use of molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies.

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