Precision Medicine Initiative: What It Means For You

By ron Mcglennen on March 18th, 2016

It’s been just more than a year since President Obama launched the Precision Medicine Initiative – a program designed to help physicians, patients and researchers better understand how their genetics, environment and lifestyle influence overall health.

The Precision Medicine Initiative, while still young, has the power to be a game changer for patients and the entire healthcare industry. The program is expected to offer a “tool bag” of sorts to use when diagnosing and treating diseases — such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and so on. These tools are not meant to replace a doctor’s skillset or diagnostic process, but further support their clinical expertise.

Genetic testing is one of the tools in the bag. Emerging technology and research are helping people better understand their genetic makeup and how it affects their health. Let’s say, for example, the daughter of a cancer patient wants to know the likelihood that she, too, will get the disease and if there is anything she can do to avoid it. After learning about genetic testing tools, she and her physician can better understand her risk of developing the disease and determine the next best steps for her treatment.

Similarly, if a cancer patient is choosing between multiple therapies, he and his physician may decide to test and see if his genetic makeup could influence his response to treatment. This would allow the patient’s doctor to avoid treatment plans that may be incompatible and focus on those that best suit the patient. 

Even though we, as a nation, are taking our first steps along the precision health journey, this program has the potential to transform healthcare. By giving patients, providers and researchers the opportunity to individualize care, the program has the potential to take a giant step toward solving some of the mysteries of debilitating disease. The program has seen increasing momentum—and as people become more energized about understanding and improving their health, the program will take on even greater importance.

Ultimately, it will empower us to thoughtfully and collaboratively treat disease and improve the overall health of the community. 

Ron McGlennen, M.D., is the medical director for Kailos Genetics.

Learn about genetic testing tools from Kailos.