Personalizing treatment to address and improve individuals’ health.
In today’s healthcare system, precision medicine is seeing rapid uptake as it promises the enhanced capability to tackle diseases by personalizing medicine and treatment. Progresses in genomics, proteomics, data analysis and others are gradually facilitating the rise of laser-focused cure, in addition to the ability to foresee individuals’ personal risk factors for particular diseases and their responses. Precision medicine is aimed at delivering the right treatment at the right time for every patient, with improved diagnostic accuracy, more personalized treatments and advanced therapy outcomes.
In the time of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as public health systems have been challenged and disrupted worldwide, precision medicine has proved a significant solution. In a recently published thought leadership paper on how to “Expand precision medicine” in public health, Siemens Healthineers has identified five areas where this treatment method plays a pivotal role. Those are: i) testing, ii) tracking and surveillance, iii) public health infrastructure, iv) global coordination, and v) addressing vulnerable populations.
Testing: Effective management of the pandemic, both on individual case level and on the population level, starts with testing. Testing programs should be extensive and massive enough to quickly and precisely identify patients that can help reduce community transmission with control measures and care management.
Tracing and surveillance: To control outbreaks, contact tracing is a valuable tool. It is even more valuable when the prevalence of infection is relatively low. Effective contact tracing requires a veritable troves of tracer personnel and can be enabled by properly used digital tools.
Public health infrastructure: Constantly upgrading public health infrastructure, countries can respond more effectively to, or even dodge, future outbreaks of COVID-19 or other potential pandemics. Through upgrading and standardizing healthcare IT infrastructure, nations will be able to real-time data sharing and mobilize resources needed to address the surge in cases.
Global collaboration and coordination: Viruses and other pathogens can spread quickly, regardless of national borders. The ease and prevalence of global trade and travel can be a major driver of such viruses to spread anywhere in the world and quickly become a pandemic. This means there is a need for effective coordination at a global level, on top of national and regional efforts.
Addressing high-risk populations: It is indispensable to identify groups that might face structurally higher risks of both exposure and mortality during infectious disease outbreaks. In the current pandemic, by identifying subpopulations, including the elderly, minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ people, nations can ensure the development of tailored prevention and treatment strategies, meaning precision medicine at scale.
Promise of Precision Medicine
Moreover, precision medicine is not a new concept, as it is already in the practice in specialized and critical procedures. This health care application is well recognized effective in cancer treatment. It allows medical personnel to decide the course of treatment based on report testing to identify the extent, stage, and grade of cancer. Some of the major goals of precision medicine in cancer treatment include: figuring out the most effective treatment for the cancer patient; avoiding unnecessary treatment and redundant side effects, trauma, and risks of breast cancer surgery; identifying people who are most likely to respond to particular cancer therapy; developing therapies that target specific tumor cells or cellular pathways, and more.