Genetic testing key to new preventive health app

mHealth has brought healthcare into a truly engaged place with patients--with blood glucose monitors that can transmit data automatically to one's physician, remote sensors that can monitor falls and transmit that information to clinicians, and more.

But some new mobile technologies are taking things into uncharted territory, and one that hospitals may not be prepared for--truly preventive healthcare. Reading TechNewsWorld last week, I learned about a unique new, yet-to-be-released app that is playing at the fringes of DNA-powered healthcare. It's an exciting arena that's approaching faster than you might think, and that hospitals should be thinking about.

It's called Personal Genome Assistant, from biotech firm HolGenTech. The application uses a patient's genes to tell them how to prevent illnesses they don't even have yet--kind of like providing healthcare into the future.

The app works like this: Users have a genetic test, or their entire genome sequenced to find out if they have any genetic likelihood of developing particular diseases. The software then analyzes that information through algorithms that incorporate data about the users' personal habits--preferences, lifestyle and other factors--according to TechNewsWorld. From there, the user scans in information about food, vitamins and other products using an bar-code reader, and receives recommendations as to whether those foods or supplements are good for them now, and how those choices might affect his or her health in the future.

It's only a first step, but it's an important leap beyond most of today's apps, which thus far only monitor a patient's activity retrospectively--diet compliance, medication adherence, exercise levels, etc. Being able to project the possible future outcomes of current behavior could be a powerful tool for hospitals looking to improve the quality of patient care while reducing costs. - Sara