Ochsner Health System teaming up with Color to integrate genetic information into preventive care

doctor sitting at desk consulting with patient
Ochsner wants to identify patients who are at higher risk for certain hereditary cancers and heart disease for earlier detection and even prevention. (DMEPhotography/GettyImage)

Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System is partnering with Color to launch a population health pilot program, tying genetic information into preventive care.

Calling it the first "fully-digital population health program," Ochsner will work with the health technology company to incorporate clinical genomics into primary care with a focus on impacting patients' health further downstream.

Developed by Ochsner’s innovation lab, innovationOchsner (iO), the health system’s program will identify patients who are at higher risk for certain hereditary cancers and heart disease so these diseases can be detected early or prevented.

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This marks another big partnership for Color this year. The company inked a similar collaboration with Chicago-based NorthShore University HealthSystem, called DNA10K, that will provide more than 10,000 NorthShore patients access to Color’s clinical-grade genetic testing and whole genome sequencing. At the time, it was touted as the largest primary care genomics program in the U.S.

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Physician practices are beginning to incorporate genomics into primary care as well. Murfreesboro Medical Clinic and SurgiCenter in Tennessee are working with technology company 2bPrecise, a subsidiary of health IT company Allscripts, to integrate pharmacogenomic test results at the point of care.

In August, Color was awarded a $4.6 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to serve as the nationwide genetic counseling service for its All of Us Research Program.

With this pilot program, Ochsner is focused on screening patients with genetic mutations that put them at increased risk for three conditions—hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome due to genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes; Lynch syndrome, associated with increased risk in colorectal, endometrial, ovarian and other cancers; and familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which increases the risk for heart disease or stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2 million people in the U.S. are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes because they have genetic mutations with one of those three conditions.

“Genetic screening can make a meaningful difference to patients through early detection and screening. Most consumers have access to home genetic screening tests but may not have the tools, resources, and collaboration needed to take action should they receive questionable results,” said Richard Milani, M.D., chief clinical transformation officer for the Ochsner Health System and medical director for iO.

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Ochsner provides patient care across 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals and more than 100 health centers and urgent care centersThe partnership will combine Color’s capabilities in medical-grade genetics, clinical services and patient engagement and the health system's experience with personalized medicine and integrating it into routine patient care, the organizations said in a press release.  

As part of the program, selected patients will be enrolled into the program digitally and will receive access to genetic testing and counseling. Genetic testing results will be stored in the patient’s Epic electronic health record so patients and providers have access to the genetic information.

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Ochsner also has developed clinical decision support tools and a robust provider education program for both primary care and specialty providers to integrate into clinical practice.

New technology tools like clinical genomics will enable Ochsner physicians to better understand individualized risk among its patient population and create action plans that can detect or prevent disease, according to the health system.

“We know there are many factors that influence health, and genetic insights provide an additional data point to allow us to develop and deliver a more personalized approach in partnership with our patients," Milani said.

"Integrating this information into the patient’s electronic health record so doctors can review the results and discuss proactive treatment recommendations is yet another example of how we are reengineering care, informing smarter decisions by healthcare providers and empowering patients to become more involved in their health," he said.

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