January 12, 2022
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said more than 60 years ago, "if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens.".
Yet, as a nation and society, we are still struggling to overcome inequities - particularly in health care. Health inequities include a wide variety of factors outside one’s control, such as lack of resources and discrimination which prevent a person from achieving optimum health or receiving the health care they need.
According to the CDC, “health inequities are reflected in differences in length of life; quality of life; rates of disease, disability, and death; severity of disease; and access to treatment. Therefore, achieving health equity means reducing and ultimately eliminating disparities in health and its determinants that adversely affect excluded or marginalized demographics.”
Health equity involves providing resources based on the needs of those receiving care, but how is that possible? One way is through precision health. Precision health is helping pave the way toward health equity by seeing each person as an individual and also by removing data silos that hinder communication between physicians, labs, pharmacists, emergency care facilities, and other health entities.
Individual health isn’t measured by just the absence of disease. For instance, health care providers also utilize precision health to promote health equity by considering the balance of social determinants that impact the health and well-being of an individual, assuring that regardless of demographics one has the chance to achieve quality physical and mental health care for optimum wellness.
Isaac Kohane, MD, Ph.D. at Harvard Medical School addressed the topic of race and ethnicity in precision health at their 2021 annual conference by noting the necessary component for precision health asks the question, “who are you and where does who you are, situate you in the intersection of environmental exposures, clinical history, family history, genomic sequence, gene expression and epigenetic signature.” Kohane went on to explain that understanding that placement allows insight into what to expect regarding diagnosis, prognosis and individualized therapy needs based on who a person is. However, it requires breaking free of the “boxes” or silos in place in order to achieve personalized care.
Precision health allows a vast number of medical disciplines access to information that can help identify the best care for each individual patient, such as
- Identifying disease mutations in patients with undiagnosed conditions
- Alerts to serious side effects from prescribed medications
Personalizing health care is quickly becoming the avenue for better individual health, more efficiencies in medical and lab testing and diagnostics and better use of prescription-based medicines.
The goal of precision health is to protect individual health by measuring these factors, such as family health history, the assisted use of personal devices that keep track of health information, genome sequencing that can locate, track and help control infectious outbreaks, genetic testing of tumors to determine best treatment protocols and pharmacogenomics, which enable medical providers to select and prescribe drugs and proper dosage best suited for an individual.
These interventions are curated to the individual, rather than using the same modality for all. Technology platforms that allow instant analytic insights and communication between health providers and labs are vital in achieving full-scope information to be attained at the right time—when needed the most. Identifying a person’s individual health care path both historically and projecting it futuristically can bring long-term precision health to anyone, allowing a higher quality of life overall.
To learn more about how hc1 transforms lab data into personalized health care insights, please visit www.hc1.com/precision-health-insight-networks/.