By Rick Morrison
April 17, 2013 | Contributed Commentary | As the health care industry increasingly functions as a marketplace, now more than ever patients are playing a more active role in their care—from demanding visibility into costs of medical services to interacting with physicians in new ways to participating in preventive care measures.
Government, pharma and providers have all recognized that turning patients into educated health care consumers is increasingly critical to overhauling the system by driving down costs and improving outcomes. At the same time, the health care industry also needs to realize that in their role as consumers, patients will also be a driving force in the commoditization of personalized medicine—and that hospitals will soon be impacted by this increasing demand.
Hospitals and health systems are recognizing that very soon, as the cost of genome and exome analysis becomes increasingly affordable, patients are going to demand therapies and treatments designed specifically for them. But, with their myriad siloed electronic medical records, health information exchanges and mobile device data, most health systems today are not equipped to house, manage, share and analyze the data they have now—let alone the large volumes of data required to provide more personalized service to patients. As they become more involved in their care and expect more from their health systems, patients will drive the market by choosing hospitals that can customize the most efficacious therapies.
With this push from consumers for mainstream personalized medicine, we’ll also need to see regulations by the FDA and other government bodies relax to pave the way for these innovations. Patients are going to demand customized treatments based on medical condition, genetic makeup, health history, etc.—which will often mean experimental or off-label uses of drugs. The ability for patients to utilize these therapies at their and their doctor’s discretion without restraint from regulatory bodies is necessary for personalized medicine to become a reality. By removing the regulatory barriers to developing treatments, the industry is presented with the opportunity to collect and analyze a broader range of therapies on an ongoing basis. This ultimately offers clinical researchers access to more data about potential treatments and empowers hospitals and health systems to develop and implement stronger personalized medicine strategies.
Hospitals and health systems will need to support and encourage physicians to meet the demands of patients looking for alternative treatments in order to drive access to this critical information on new therapies. The hospitals and health systems that will win out will be those that can think big about what patients will be demanding in the not-so-distant future and adapt policies and procedures accordingly. The health care industry will also need to take a page out of pharma’s playbook when it comes to understanding how to access and analyze large sets of data. But most importantly, by removing regulatory barriers to innovation and granting consumers the freedom to choose their own treatments—experimental or otherwise—will generate volumes of valuable to data that will ultimately speed the development of personalized therapies.
Rick Morrison is CEO and Founder of Comprehend Systems. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.