October 22-23, 2018 | Boston, MA

The Current State of Precision Medicine & Analytics

By Sam Hanna, Professor, Healthcare Strategy, George Washington University

By Sam Hanna, Associate Dean - Graduate & Professional Studies, Executive in Residence| School of Professional & Extended Studies (SPExS), American University, Washington DC

Thanks to advances in gene editing technologies and genomics, it’s possible to edit out abnormalities leading to the elimination of major disease categories – which holds the biggest promise for precision medicine.

In addition, the near-constant innovation and speed of processing in the data analytics space are making it more possible to analyze enormous amounts of data in little time leading to expedited discoveries


Precision medicine is already changing lives. Targeted therapies have made countless lives better and have made populations live and prosper longer. Patients should consider educating themselves on the latest therapies that apply to their conditions and to understand that the field is moving rapidly and robustly. What is not possible today could be within reach in a very short time as research catches up with the data and innovative approaches.


I believe we can categorize precision medicine elements into three groups.

1. People or Population - population health data and information must be available and accessible to all that need it for precision medicine purposes. It must be protected and the population must be able to understand who is using the information and why. We must be able to provide comfort that the information is being used appropriately, ethically and to enhance and expedite knowledge

2. Reseach and Technology - This element encompasses the key research approaches, latest thinking and innovations, and key supporting and enhancing technologies. This is where the data and various other inputs come to live through robust data analysis and modeling. Expedited clinical trials and knowledge will need to be disseminated so that targeted therapies can be implemented.

3. Knowledge - Innovations and new therapies and tools must be shared and evaluated through interdisciplinary knowledge networks that will provide a continuous feedback loop that elevates the conversation and further impacts policy and practice


Existing EHRs do not currently have the ability to handle precision medicine or genomics data. They were not architected to do so and were more focused on items such as family history and drug interactions. There are several other vendors that could plug into an EHR to provide this functionality. 

It is imperative for the precision medicine movement to work with EHR vendors to determine the key business, technology and data requirements in order to enhance the role of EHR in precision medicine. 


In reality, there is no precision medicine without artificial intelligence. AI and machine learning are inherent in the genomics and precision medicine space. They are the vehicles by which we leverage data into information that we can make a decision from. 

AI will continue to play an enhanced role in determining targeted therapies based on vast quantities of structured and unstructured data.


With improved precision medicine, capabilities and technologies come responsibilities. We must be able to infuse ethical practices into the process from the start. These include the protection of patient privacy and security, addressing equity and disparity issues, and developing thoroughly traceable protocols to ensure that discoveries are developed for the purpose of addressing that precise patient or a group of patients. 

The use of population health data is essential to the success of personalized medicine, but it requires an ecosystem of trust and appropriate safeguards in order to ensure that all groups are served in the process.

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