Precision Medicine: What does it mean for patients?

It’s no secret that technology is rapidly becoming ever more sophisticated and changing the world around us. Advancements in technology are blossoming into a new field of medicine: precision medicine.

Precision medicine has profound implications for doctors and patients alike, and represents a somewhat algorithmic approach to care, medical decisions and prevention techniques for many diseases.

Precision medicine looks at the makeup of individual genes, compares it to known health history entered into an individual’s electronic medical file, and determines calculations of the likelihood (and in some cases, timeline) of developing particular diseases. Sounds great, right?

Just remember, there’s no crystal ball.

Genetic information can absolutely provide physicians with a new depth of patient information. This can guide care and serve as an impetus for specific prevention regiments. In as much as it starts valuable conversations between a patient and doctor about individualized risks, precision medicine is an extremely valuable tool.

It’s easier and easier for patients to learn more about their genetic information – even without insurance coverage. Companies like Color and 23andMe provide in-home kits that can test for a number of genetic markers. The convenience and ease of these tests is certainly empowering, but it’s important for patients to look at the whole picture – consult with your physician to ensure you have a complete picture, with a road-map for prevention backed by evidence-based medicine.

Science can tell us so much, but it is up to a well-trained physician to connect the dots that these new technologies and methods provide. When connecting the dots, a treatment practice that puts evidence-based medicine at the forefront is still the best bet for a patient.

So while technology can begin to start showing us a glimpse into the future, it is, at best, a cloudy image. Trust your doctor to decode the image and lead conversations in what it means for you.

Have a question about precision medicine? Be sure to talk with your provider.