Increasingly more doctors are using precision medicine to offer a higher level of patient care. Precision medicine separates patients into distinct groups. This allows doctors to offer more personalized health care to target the patient’s exact needs. This important model has been groundbreaking because it avoids the pitfalls that can happen when healthcare tries to treat everyone similarly.
Precision medicine acknowledges the differences between people while treating them with the attention, care, and compassion they deserve.
Why is precision medicine so important?
Precision medicine allows medical professionals to home in on the underlying factors contributing to a patient’s condition. More factors are considered to create a treatment plan. For example, on interviewing a patient, a doctor might discover that the patient has a genetic background that makes them far more likely to be diagnosed with certain diseases or conditions. Ethnic background is a great example of a factor that is not clear, as skin tone alone is a poor indicator of a patient’s ethnic background and genetic characteristics. A well-known example of this is people of sub-Saharan African descent. This subgroup is more likely to develop sickle cell leukemia than other groups but less likely to get severe malaria symptoms.
The world is a beautiful and diverse place, and modern society has allowed for easier immigration, meaning doctors have needed to learn more about the health challenges different people face so they can offer the same level of care to everyone who walks through the door of their facility.
How does precision medicine figure out unique differences to categorize patients?
While a thorough interview and physical of a patient is a great place to start, this is not enough for a well-organized personalized treatment plan. No matter how forthcoming and open a patient is with their background and family history, there is often a lot that they need to learn. Patients that are adopted or estranged from a lot of their family might know far less than the average person.
Luckily doctors and specialists have some fantastic technology and tests they can use to make valuable discoveries about a patient’s genetics and predisposition toward health conditions.
Analyzing and sequencing a patient’s DNA can reveal a lot. Doctors can create a genetic profile that shows if a patient displays factors that can tell them what diseases and conditions the patient needs to be aware of and take extra steps to prevent. Although this is a powerful tool, it is not a definitive factor. Just because something is more likely does not mean the chances are so high that extreme measures must be taken.
While DNA sequencing is the first step in a genetic profile, sequencing the smaller RNA offers an even more defined picture because RNA is susceptible to environmental factors. This means if a patient is exposed to a certain substance within their environment, there may be changes in their RNA that doctors should be aware of so they can take the appropriate measures to correct it. While this is not always entirely possible without some major changes in a patient’s life, it at least allows doctors to create treatment plans that consider the RNA factor.
Advantages of precision medicine
Focuses on prevention
Precision medicine allows the medical community to gain a lot of knowledge about how diseases manifest in different groups. This knowledge can be used to prevent conditions from occurring entirely or, at the very least, minimize the severity of a condition so a patient can lead a happier and more fruitful life regardless of age.
Through precision medicine, a patient’s genome may be sequenced at a very young age. Over the course of a lifetime, their medical needs can be tailored towards preventing the conditions they are most likely to face.
Saves a lot of money over the lifetime of a patient.
Good healthcare is not inexpensive. With rising costs, nursing and healthcare leaders must stress the importance of preventative medicine. Using preventative medicine is far less expensive than advanced medical treatments and prescription medications.
All major medical insurance companies include preventative and routine visits at a reduced or 100% covered rate. Over time an insurer is far less likely to have to cover major health care costs of someone that has taken advantage of preventative medicine benefits.
Increases the likelihood of positive patient outcomes.
The more doctors know, the more likely it is that a patient has a positive outcome. Patient mortality is significantly reduced via preventative medicine and early treatment. Even if a patient has not been great about preventive medicine visits in the past, they are still more likely to have a better outcome if they allow their doctors to get a glimpse into what they are up against and create a strong plan.
When doctors can give a patient information, those patients can take control of and change their own lives, empowering them. Feeling like they have some control over their health and outcome increases patient morale and offers encouragement to them during particularly difficult and overwhelming times.
Allows doctors to prescribe the most effective medications for the individual
Over the years, there have been a lot of medications created for treating practically all conditions. With multiple medications and drug combinations available as possible treatments for any condition, doctors sometimes have to allow a patient to test several different medications or combinations before finding out what is most effective. With precision medicine and genome sequencing, some of this trial and error in the type of medicine can be eliminated.
Prescribing a highly effective combination sooner rather than later means patients may heal or be cured much faster. Of course, this also has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood that a condition is allowed to progress past a critical stage.
Personalized medicine can prevent a patient from experiencing moderate to major side effects. Not every medication is a good fit for an individual with underlying genetic factors. For example, if a patient is prone to cardiovascular issues and one treatment is more likely to exacerbate this, a doctor can choose another treatment and possibly avoid a life-threatening complication.
Personalized medicine allows medical studies to be more honed and effective from the start.
Genome sequencing allows researchers to have a lot more knowledge about diseases and genetic factors from the start. Since genome sequencing started, medical studies and clinical trials can be well-honed from the start. This can eliminate harm from testing treatments on subjects that have factors that might lead them to have serious side effects. While some studies might have been considered viable pre-genome sequencing, researchers can now avoid spending time and hard work to get research grants on treatments that are not likely to pay off.
Looking at genetic factors allows researchers to have a major advantage from the start of any study. When time and money are better spent, we are more likely to get effective results that help humanity out over time.
Consider how much time and money has been spent on finding effective treatments or a cure for cancer. Now that we have tools like DNA and RNA sequencing to help, we have a better understanding of the genetic factors that make someone more likely to develop specific cancers. This helps researchers develop more effective treatments and affordable medications to combat these diseases.
Steps in creating a treatment plan for the patient
A typical sequence of events for evaluating and creating a treatment plan for a new patient could look something like the following.
- Initial consultation and interview- In this step, the primary doctor would collect the patient’s background and any current symptoms and make sure they have access to any relevant medical records from other facilities. Blood work and some initial tests may occur.
- Follow-up appointment- This appointment would consist of possibly more testing or, at the least, discussing what tests are best and then scheduling the agreed tests.
- Genome sequencing and analysis- The patient’s DNA and RNA are sequenced and analyzed.
- Treatment suggestions- The doctor will discuss genetic factors and suggest treatments, lifestyle changes, and medications with the patient.
- Major treatments- Agreed-on treatments start, and the patient is monitored as directed by their doctor and other specialists. Treatments are adjusted as needed over time.
Personalized medicine and nursing leadership
Leaders in the world of healthcare have a duty to pay close attention to advancements in personalized medicine. It is to the benefit of any medical facility to realize the importance of encouraging preventative medicine to patients and caregivers. Those that want to pursue leadership roles in nursing can gain the skills they need to provide a high level of patient care by achieving a Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice degree online via Elmhurst University. This program can be completed while maintaining a full-time job.
Here are a few things that healthcare workers at all levels can do to encourage personalized medical care practices.
Make sure patients are encouraged to schedule routine healthcare visits.
Patients sometimes view checkups when they are feeling well as unnecessary. It is important that medical professionals stress that preventative checkups are a good way to avoid a lot more doctor visits in the future. Some people may not be aware that preventative appointments are included with their insurance plan or available with a very low co-pay at most. Explaining this can help get patients on a better track with preventive visits, tests, and health screenings.
Healthcare workers must also let patients know what types of preventative visits and screenings are recommended at a specific age. For example, if a woman is going to turn 40 within the next year, it is better to bring up the subject of annual mammograms sooner rather than later. Knowing what needs to happen well in advance is helpful to many.
Help patients find ways to cover medical costs if they are experiencing difficulties.
Health insurance availability has vastly improved over the years. At the same time, some people may not realize what they actually qualify for. There may be additional resources that can help some patients afford the care they need. It is important for healthcare workers not to overlook how much finances can come into play when patients are making treatment decisions. Older individuals and those on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to making hasty health choices based on finances.
Good medical facilities will have a list of resources and organizations that can offer help. Of course, there should always be someone available to ensure that patients understand what insurance will cover and what it will not.
Listen to patient concerns and empathize.
When patients feel that their concerns are acknowledged and given the respect and attention they deserve, they are far more likely to listen to any future advice their provider offers. This means it will be easier to convince them to take recommended steps to treat their condition. It also encourages preventative medicine if a patient is reluctant to make appointments when they already feel alright.
Good communication and listening skills prevent patients from leaving practice and seeking advice from another doctor. While there are times when it is best for a patient and facility to part ways, this is rare and often prevents treatments from starting as promptly as possible.
Personalized medicine is a fantastic approach to patient care. Through personalized medicine, patients receive a higher level of care that is customized to offer the fastest and most positive outcome. In the future, it will be far easier to catch diseases early on. Personalized medicine saves patients and facilities a lot of money on healthcare costs and helps facilities treat more patients. With the current shortage of healthcare workers, the ability to treat more patients with fewer workers without sacrificing the quality of care offered is invaluable, to say the least.