Communicating the value of precision medicine
By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?
Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.
This new approach to treating and preventing disease views the patient holistically, analysing their genes, environment and lifestyle, and using this information to make a more accurate treatment decision.
As a result, healthcare professionals are shifting to using tests to inform rather than to confirm treatment decisions. In clinical practice, this means doctors are using genetic tests and employing novel diagnostics to pinpoint the most precise treatments.
Crucially, this new era of precision medicine will not only treat patients on a molecular level, the insights from the genetic data can then inform future treatment decisions to improve
We will be able to harness the data of every patient to better understand disease, ensuring our genetic databases are continuously updated.
Nevertheless, we still have some way to go before this can be fully realised. While science and technology are progressing rapidly, some stakeholders are still reeling from the seismic shift in the way patients are treated.
Blue Latitude Health’s recent report outlines some of these challenges through first-hand interviews. It also includes 90+ insights cataloguing stakeholders’ reactions to and understanding of this evolution in healthcare.
The barriers preventing innovation
Within this new era of precise treatment sits a complex network of stakeholders who are beginning to navigate the novel landscape. It will take collaboration across this ecosystem for precision medicine to become embedded in healthcare systems.
The patient sits at the centre of this web. As precision medicine is reliant on collecting large data sets from patients, their needs, worries and fears are central to the progress of treatment. These range from concerns about the hereditary impact of genetic tests to fears about privacy.
Figure 1: Patients sit at the heart of the precision medicine ecosystem, influencing all other stakeholders. The Blue Latitude Health report details 90+ insights on how each of the stakeholders is impacted by precision medicine and explores why patients-centricity is now more important than ever.
Click on the image to see the full-sized version
Conversely, empowered patients and carers are propelling precision medicine forward. Those with the ability to research, or those with a support system who can research for them, are pushing doctors to treat them with the latest innovations – nowhere is this more evident than in the oncology space.
However, this is putting pressure on doctors to better understand the genetic foundations of disease. These healthcare professionals often rely on genetic counsellors, which are a scarce resource.
Those practicing in a community care setting often lack knowledge of precise treatments, as shown in our interview with breast cancer survivor Laura Holmes-Haddad. As a result, the ‘zip code lottery’ and patients’ financial constraints are fundamental to cancer care, with those unable to travel to a centre of excellence often failing to get the best treatment.
Here, industry has a role to play in communicating the benefits of the precision medicine approach in a way that both educates healthcare professionals and elicits behaviour change. Crucially, this means working with oncologists to develop tools, services and processes to simplify the search for information. Often this will include employing a multichannel approach to connect with doctors, who may not attend the larger congresses where data is revealed, outside of centres of excellence.
In order to collect the holistic healthcare data needed for precision medicine to become a reality, information will be taken from wearables and linked to phenotypic and genomic data. As a result, pharma companies are showing more interest in partnering with healthcare technology innovators.
This brings a set of unique challenges. These organisations have traditionally operated in the consumer space and the technology is not well regulated. Work will need to be done to ensure the data is accurate enough to evidence treatment decisions.
Additionally, some of the technology companies will not have worked in the pharmaceutical space previously. Often, they do not understand the drug development and clinical trial processes, as discussed in our interview with medical information specialist Nancy Brandt.
Our research shows that payers think of themselves as doctors first. They too are struggling to grasp the complex science behind these new targeted therapies and have indicated that they need services to help them better understand the value of these novel treatments.
The Blue Latitude Health animation on precision medicine explores some of the things industry needs to consider when commercialising precision medicines and personalised healthcare products and services. Watch the video here
The $475,000 (£367,000) price tag of Novartis’ CAR-T therapy, Kymriah™, illustrates how expensive targeted therapies are in comparison to their traditional counterparts. One way
of overcoming this is by moving to innovative, value-based pricing models, instead of focusing on the volume of sales.
Here, patient selection is key for indicating how a therapy can reach Patients at the point of need. To show this value, it’s crucial for pharmaceutical teams to clearly convey the patient
profile and provide tools for identifying these patients, as well as having the data to support why they are the most likely to respond.
Improving outcomes for the masses
Data collection and analysis are the foundation of precision medicine. Information needs to be reliable, standardised and have the ability to be reproduced in order for it to not only benefit the individual, but also to help inform better outcomes at a population level. As a result, solving the operational and integration issues surrounding data collection is a major barrier preventing precision products and services reaching patients.
This means not just understanding the patients who respond well to treatment but exploring why patients do not respond to a therapy. Armed with this information, we can reveal trends that could stratify patient populations, helping to improve outcomes on a larger scale. This is demonstrated in our interview with Dr Tom Fowler of Genomics England.
Once the precision data has been harnessed, tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to better define patient cohorts and improve the outcomes of larger patient groups, reducing inequalities in healthcare.
The opportunities to transform patient outcomes seem endless, but it is not the science or technology holding innovation back. Instead, it’s a question of ensuring the industry can overcome the operational barriers preventing stakeholders from understanding, accessing and benefiting from targeted therapies. Only then will we be able to predict, treat and prevent disease.