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Why behavioral health experts are turning to precision medicine

As physicians, we want to offer the best possible care plan for every patient, every time. We want tools that help us incorporate the many factors that affect each individual. This is where precision medicine comes in.

As defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 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 good news for patients today is that health care is overcoming some of the challenges that have kept precision medicine from going mainstream For example, there is an increasing number of genetic diagnoses, while at the same time, the costs to sequence a human genome are dropping.

Oncology is one discipline that is already using genomics extensively, and there is now a burgeoning use in other areas, including a significant interest in pharmacogenomics to improve care for behavioral health patients.

The appeal of pharmacogenomics to a behavioral health provider (and patient)

Behavioral health professionals have traditionally treated their patients with a trial-and-error approach to prescriptions. For patients with depression, for example, psychiatrists commonly prescribe a type of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as a first line of treatment.

They must wait six weeks or so to determine if the medication is working, and if not, adjust the dose or switch to a new prescription. By the time they reach their therapeutic goal, it could take several months or even a year.

Pharmacogenomics, the study of how people’s genes affect their response to medications, can change that paradigm and potentially shorten the treatment timeline. Each person metabolizes medications at different rates, and certain genetic variants can help clinicians predict which medication will be most effective.

With clinical-genomic information about their patients, psychiatrists can more quickly assign the right medication, with the right dosage. These capabilities have significant implications for improved, personalized care plans.

Early adopter tackles opioid addiction with clinical-genomic solution

Tennessee-based Holston Medical Group (HMG) is an early adopter of the 2bPrecise clinical-genomic solution to improve behavioral health care. In a recent news release HMG CEO Dr. Scott Fowler indicated that the practice will use it to better treat a patient population that struggles with opioid addiction.

HMG’s adoption of precision medicine stems from its larger commitment to value-based care and investing in strategies that will improve outcomes and reduce cost. As part of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), HMG recognizes that each new technology must drive quality and better patient care to justify the cost. (Read more about HMG’s success with value-based initiatives in this free case study.)

Outside of forward-thinking medical groups like HMG, bringing genomics and precision medicine to the point of care is still an unmet challenge. But 2bPrecise has taken a big step forward, announcing general availability at HIMSS 2017. By making genomics and precision medicine information available – at the point of care – we give clinicians powerful tools to support clinical decisions. We give patients better, more personalized treatment options. 

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