Precision Medicine needs an IT infrastructure rethink

The impact of information technology (IT) is having on the development of precision medicine remains a perennial challenge as genomic technology march forwards. The advances in time, cost, and quality of genomic and genetic technologies have allowed those techniques to generate staggering volumes of vital data. 

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IT systems for medical data are really just restricted to electronic versions of the traditional medical record. It’s simply not feasible to incorporate the wealth of novel genomic data within this infrastructure in a way that maximises its value, according to a recent paper coming from University Hospitals Cleveland. One of the challenges lies in tying together a patient’s static genomic data with the changeable data of a patient’s health status and linking the genetic aspects with test results. It’s also vitally important for data records to be updateable (ideally in close to real time) to accommodate advances in research. Precision medicine necessitates electronic records that offer far more in terms of functionality and flexibility.

Precision medicine will also rely on systems that talk to one another. Linking networks and databases will be vital in realising the value of the wealth of data that will describe each patient’s genetic makeup. Beyond data exchange, data accessibility will also have to be addressed. With databases potentially locked away as proprietary, unlocking access would be needed to avoid repeat testing and barrier to exchange.

One other challenge to be overcome sits with how clinicians understand the new language of genomic data. Currently, healthcare providers receive only limited training on topics relevant to precision medicine. Knowledge, for example, of how patients can respond to a given medicine, could influence treatment options with potentially highly significant influence on outcomes.

UH Cleveland’s leaders have kicked off a strategy that could allow the integration of genetic and genomic data with electronic patient records. The system will allow clinicians to access the right information to help with decision-making. Development of systems like these are important steps towards true integration.