Precision medicine moves from promise to reality [Q&A]

Carolinas Healthcare System's Gregory Weidner talks about the latest developments and breakthroughs in personalized medicine

President Barack Obama recently announced a landmark Precision Medicine Initiative, a proposed $215 million investment to advance precision or personalized medicine and use genomics to customize patient treatment.

To learn more about the latest developments and breakthroughs in precision medicine, its vast potential and the regulatory implications, FierceHealthcare spoke with Gregory R. Weidner, M.D., medical director of primary care innovation and proactive health at Carolinas HealthCare System, an innovative network of more than 900 locations including academic medical centers, hospitals, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers and other facilities throughout North and South Carolina. 

With a background in quality, medical informatics and technology, Weidner is working with his team to design and develop new models of care delivery that leverage team-based, technology-enabled, person-centered care and that promote patient engagement and empowerment.

In an exclusive interview with FierceHealthcare, Weidner shared his insights into what healthcare leaders across diverse types of organizations should know about the emerging world of precision medicine.

FierceHealthcare: It sounds as though you view precision medicine as being about much more than genomics, as it's commonly associated with. What's the broader definition?

Greg Weidner, M.D.: At this point in the game, precision medicine is an evolving entity, with an opportunity for people to look at it from many vantage points. When most folks hear "precision medicine" or "personalized medicine," they go immediately to the genomic elements of it. That's a critical piece of the potential but it's certainly not the entirety of personalized or precision medicine.

What we're trying to do is individualize and personalize care based on a variety of factors, which would include their genomic profile as well as various elements of their environment, lifestyle, personal preferences, clinical data and other pieces of data that we know or could know about them.

While cancer care and research are two areas where precision medicine has a head start and incredible potential, there's also much potential in prevention and treatment of other disease states such as heart disease, diabetes and genetic disorders of metabolism. There's also opportunity for improving the health of populations through lifestyle modifications.

Broadly, we're trying to gather as many data points on as many people as we can to better inform how to prevent and treat disease.