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Personalized Medicine

A Doctor’s Hope for Innovative and Accessible Cancer Care

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Lincoln Nadauld

What if your doctors could tell exactly what type of medicine could cure your specific ailment? What if medicine could be tailor-made to target your exact type of cancer? And what if these tests and drugs were covered by your provider?

This isn’t what if — this is reality. It’s called precision medicine, and it’s saving lives.

As the newest trend in personalized medicine, precision medicine is the latest innovative technology doctors are using to treat their patients more accurately. These targeted therapies are delivering better results in patient care and treatment.

Dr. Lincoln Nadauld is the executive director of precision medicine and precision genomics at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah. “I believe that patients are entitled to a fully-informed treatment plan. When we get comprehensive genomic analysis of a patient’s tumor, then we have all the information we need to make decisions about which drugs they should receive and in what order; what trials might really benefit them; whether or not they are a candidate for immunotherapy,” he explains.

Sharing is caring ​​​​​​​

Data sharing is also a critical part of the precision medicine movement. When other health care institutions across the country are willing and able to share results, it helps better inform all the physicians involved. Dr. Nadauld describes, “If I, in Utah, can understand how patients in Seattle, Boston, Palo Alto and Houston are being treated and how they’re responding to treatments in real time, then it will help my patient that I am going to see tomorrow.”

To support this data sharing initiative, they launched a networked called Oncology Precision Network, or OPeN. In a joint effort between Intermountain Healthcare, Stanford University and Providence Health and Services, they are able to share real-time patient results with other doctors in the network, so they can better learn how patients with similarities are reacting to personal medicine. As a result of their ongoing success, a dozen other health care systems across the United States are in the process of joining OPeN. Yet the information remains confidential. 

The health care question

But a question on everyone’s mind is, who pays for these advanced genomic tests and therapies? Are they covered by third-party payers or is the patient responsible? The good news is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now approving these therapies, and plans across the country are now covering these types of tests. Health plans and payers are recognizing the value of personal medicine and approving these types of custom therapies for their members because it’s truly in the best interest of everyone involved.

The even better news is that, with all the advancements in genomic and molecular testing, immunotherapies, and informed treatment plans for patients, people are taking notice and expecting big things to come out of these medical strides. In fact, even Harvard Business School wrote a case study on Intermountain Healthcare and their precision medicine department.  

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