How can precision medicine reduce the burden on health systems?

April 4, 2019 Dr. Kevin Ross

As hospitals around the world struggle with pressure on resources and a rising number of patients to care for, innovative solutions to prevent people ending up in hospital are becoming more and more crucial.

Interestingly, it has been discovered that increasing access to primary care is not reducing acute hospital admissions after all. A recent study by the Associate of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) confirmed that hospital admissions are still on the rise, despite the increase access to general practices (GPs).

Although it is important to make GPs as accessible as possible, including health promotion and illness prevention, the study reveals it is not the permanent solution to hospital use, but rather a band-aid approach to a much bigger issue.

Even if a patient can access a GP service, the GP will likely not have all the right information they need to make an informed decision on the best treatment or care for that patient. Today, doctors have access to some parts of our medical records, but the reality is they still have very little visibility of a patient’s overall health, especially if the person hasn’t had many interactions with the health system before.

Enabling health information sharing is the first step to helping GPs gain a more complete view of a patient, allowing them to identify and act upon a health issue much earlier and more accurately, before a patient ends up in hospital. Once information is flowing freely across healthcare providers, it becomes much easier to collect and view a much broader range of information on a patient.

Electronic health records today are becoming more comprehensive as providers become more connected, incorporating data from across the healthcare system. However, patients’ interactions with the healthcare system are not the only data points that we can collect. The volume and variety of data that’s being collected is rapidly increasing, which provides a wealth of opportunity to improve healthcare. This is where precision medicine comes in.

Precision medicine identifies treatment plans based on all available data collected on an individual, rather than relying on evidence-based healthcare. Data analysis can be carried out on information from an individual to entire populations, revealing insights that help clinicians in their decision making.

If technology can be in place to predict problems before they arise, hospital visits can be avoided by empowering both the care team with the information they need to make informed decisions, and patients with tools to take better control of their health. In addition, gathering aggregate patterns of what has caused rising admissions in the past can help identify proactive areas to lessen admissions going forward.

This is the ideal long-term solution to combatting rising hospital admissions, but will only become possible once health information flows freely and is collected and managed effectively.

Learn more about the precision medicine movement in our white paper.

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