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Precision medicine: New opportunity in the age of conscious medicine

This emerging field could overcome the hurdles that stood in the way of a personalized medicine revolution.

Emerging technologies, big data, and increased pressure to contain health costs are creating a major opportunity for precision medicine. Diagnostic makers still face high hurdles to commercialization, but through better strategic planning and innovative collaboration they can embrace this opportunity and help make precision medicine a key tool in the push for more efficient healthcare delivery. Precision medicine can also become a key differentiator in an increasingly cost-conscious and competitive healthcare delivery landscape.

Worldwide, health costs are expected to reach $10 trillion by 2020.1 In almost a dozen countries, health costs now consume about 10% or more of GDP. In the U.S. that figure is almost 18%. Health costs are also rising much faster than income in many countries. This is not sustainable, and we are already seeing big shifts, particularly in the U.S., where costs are fueling a new “triple aim” of better health and patient experiences at lower cost.2 Under new payment systems and plans providers will be taking on a lot more economic risk, and patients will be paying more out of their own pockets.

As the focus shifts to cost containment, it will create new opportunity for the emerging field of precision medicine—the science of tailoring treatments to specific patient characteristics. Thanks to the sequencing of the human genome, multiple technological advances, and the rise in electronic medical records, we are finally reaching a point where we can indeed better define patient subgroups and match them to optimal therapies.

To many, the field of personalized medicine has been a disappointment. The U.S. FDA has approved just 18 companion diagnostic tests so far,3 and the vast majority of these tests help guide prescribing of targeted cancer drugs. But precision medicine, with its new emphasis on a broader range of data and better new tools, should overcome many of the hurdles that stood in the way of a personalized medicine revolution.

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