Customer Experience and Design

Personalized Prevention the Next Generation

I work with a number of healthcare clients that work to enable patients around the topic of preventive medicine. They offer valuable information on their public website and portal. They also venture out into the world of social media with the mission of increasing care, and reducing costs, through ensuring that disease stops before it starts.

In today’s day and age we have many methods to personalize preventive medicine. You can call it creepy or cool when you see Facebook algorithms that can be used to tailor personalized prevention messages to patients. Healthcare organizations are also using self identification programs to offer up personalized content on dynamic portions of the public website or the patient portal. However, at last week’s Connected Health Symposium I learned of an even more sophisticated form of personalized prevention that is coming around the bend. I attended a session entitled “Personalized Prevention: The Intersection of Genomics and Connected Health” by Joseph Kvedar, MD. As the session title suggests, Dr. Kvedar presented ways that relatively inexpensive genomics testing can be used to revolutionize personalized preventive medicine.

The Digital Essentials, Part 3
The Digital Essentials, Part 3

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When it comes to the most costly chronic conditions (both in terms of dollars and hardship), a simple and inexpensive (about $100) genomics test can be used to help a patient, and their team of clinicians, understand the risk of certain disease states. As shown in the picture I took at the conference, replete with reflections of the Boston Park Plaza chandeliers, the genomics test results create a long tail to the right if a patient is more likely to be impacted by the disease state in question (Type 2 Diabetes in this case). If there is a long tail to the left, then they are less likely to be impacted by that disease state (e.g., prostate cancer). When combined with other connected health data, as well as information related to motivational state, a customized program can be designed. This data can revolutionize preventive medicine as we know it. Imagine your yearly physical replete with this valuable information and insight?

Let’s use an example that has lead the medical news as of late: obesity. There are currently five known genotypes associated with obesity. They include:

  • thrifty genotype
  • hyperphagic genotype
  • leiden genotype
  • low lipid oxidation genotype
  • adipogenesis genotype

Genetics testing can, and does, start in utero. This simple test could help clinicians understand, before birth, an individual’s associated risk for obesity. These individuals can then be given the right treatments and education from the start and throughout life. Imagine the impact of this level of personalized prevention can have not only for the individual involved but for population health in terms of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and the like.

I started my career at the age of 15 as a peer health educator. I enjoyed creating brochures that helped other teens understand important preventive medicine topics. It looks like the study of genomics just took the health education brochure to the next level, and I’m really going to like this!

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