Why prevention is the next frontier of genetic testing
Making genetics central to healthcare
Could genetic screening eventually become a part of regular checkups to help prevent diseases? According to a recent survey of about 500 primary care providers, about a third had ordered a genetic test, referred a patient for genetic counseling or returned a genetic test result.
Insurance carriers are experiencing the challenge of keeping up with the rapidly evolving technologies in personalized medicine to ensure that high quality, high value care is being delivered to members. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a leading not-for-profit health services company based in New England, is one carrier which is taking a proactive, yet balanced, approach toward broadening access to personalized medicine. The company announced in early 2018 a first ever value-based contract of its kind involving next generation sequencing-based assays, which gave members under the age of 35 expanded eligibility for prenatal genetic testing. Their hope was that the agreement would provide a model for balancing access and affordability for advances in personalized medicine.
Other organizations are working to collect more genetic data from diverse groups. In September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded Color a contract to establish one of three U.S. genome centers as part of its All of Us Research Program. This ambitious effort will sequence the genes of at least 1 million people across the U.S. to accelerate health research.
“We’re beginning to see several large population genomics initiatives really start hitting scale,” Laraki said. “I think that’s going to be very significant.”
Currently, a patient who goes to a doctor is assumed to be at the center of the bell curve for every medical decision, said Laraki. But genetics account for about 30 percent of people’s health outcomes and, as personalized medicine advances, doctors will be able to take into account how each person deviates from healthcare norms in terms of risks.
“Down the road people won’t be thinking of genetics as a separate product or application,” he said. “Genetics will be incorporated into the framework of how we think about everything.”
Lisa Wirthman is a journalist who writes about business, public policy and women’s issues.
Originally published on Forbes, 2019.