Traditionally, people have assumed that the best practices in medicine are universal. Doctors will consider a patient’s symptoms, make a diagnosis and prescribe a standard treatment. Alternative treatments are only considered when the standard ones don’t work. For many patients, however, ineffective standard treatments allow worsening symptoms and disease progression, and in some cases, they may even cause severe adverse side effects.

Targeted care

Precision medicine can help change that. Precision medicine, also called personalized or individualized medicine, is an evolving field in which physicians use diagnostic tests to identify specific biological markers — often genetic — that help determine which medical treatments and procedures will work best for each patient.

By combining this information with an individual’s medical records, circumstances and values, personalized medicine allows doctors and patients to develop targeted treatment and prevention plans.

“Personalized health care has the capacity to detect the onset of a disease at its earliest stages ...”

The future of treatment

Health care is in the midst of a transformation from one-size-fits-all, trial-and-error medicine and to a new, targeted approach that utilizes patients’ molecular information. Breakthroughs in precision medicine have already yielded benefits for patients with challenging diseases like chronic myeloid leukemia, breast cancer and cystic fibrosis.

Personalized health care has the capacity to detect the onset of a disease at its earliest stages, preempt the progression of disease and, at the same time, increase the efficiency of the health care system by improving quality, accessibility and affordability. For these reasons, many experts believe precision medicine is the future of health care.