Use of genomic data collector could mean competition for medical laboratories that now store, analyze, and interpret genetic data
UCLA Health is working to integrate genomic patient data into its Epic electronic health record (EHR) system. This pilot project could signal potential competition for pathology groups and clinical laboratories that currently are the main repositories for the storage, analysis, and interpretation of genetic data.
Pilot Program Designed to Support Precision Medicine Research
UCLA Health is teaming with Seattle-based startup ActX in an effort to solve this problem. ActX represents a relatively new type of company—a genomic data collector (GDC)—and it is developing a critical solution—EHR Integration. The emergence of GDCs could affect clinical laboratories that currently provide most of the storage, analysis, and interpretation of genetic data.
ActX Founder and CEO Andrew Ury, MD, told MedCity News that, “While genetics can’t predict everything, genetics can predict more and more and whether a patient has a side effect. We think this is the future.”
ActX currently provides genomic decision support to physicians using Allscripts and Greenway Health ambulatory EHRs. A patient’s genetic information is collected through a saliva sample and then analyzed in real-time. Using a patient’s genetic code, the ActX application alerts physicians to possible medication adverse reactions and efficacy as well as actionable medical risks and patients’ carrier status.
Genomic Data Expected to Unleash Precision Medicine’s Full Potential
Precision Medicine (AKA Personalized Medicine) customizes healthcare to an individual patient’s specific needs. Molly Coye, MD, MPH, currently Social Entrepreneur in Residence, Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, believes integrating genomic data into EHRs is the best way to unleash precision medicine’s full potential. When the pilot program began, Coye was serving as the Chief Innovation Officer of and Director of the Institute for Innovation in Health at UCLA.
“Our goal is to try to bring precision medicine to a much larger proportion of patients,” Coye told MedCity News. “Right now, it tends to be focused particularly on people with cancer, and even then on a low number of patients.”
MedCity News reported that the UCLA Health pilot will begin with 50 patients but the program would expand if it proves successful and receives patient and physician support.
Building genomic data into Epic’s EHR is a “game-changer,” Coye pointed out, since Epic dominates the hospital EHR market.
“They’re actually working with Epic, so decision support means a lot more if it pops up in the EHR,” she stated in the MedCity News article. “This is going to be a game-changer, I think. That’s the real promise that everyone recognizes about genetic testing, that this will become a standard.”
Government Research Grants to Develop Genomic Data/EHR Compatibility
In 2015, President Obama made precision medicine a focal point of his administration by launching the Precision Medicine Initiative. The initiative provides $215 million in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government agencies to accelerate research into patient-driven therapies and disease prevention.
In addition, research conducted by the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network aims to better understand the genomic basis of disease and to tailor medical care to individual patients based on their genomic differences. In September 2015, NIH kicked off the third phase of the project by awarding a dozen grants to researchers seeking the best ways to combine genomic information and EHRs.
“The newly funded projects are focused on discovering genes and gene variants with clinical implications by using the latest sequencing technologies to examine rare and common variants suspected to relate to disease risk and treatment effects,” stated Rongling Li, MD, PhD, Program Director for eMERGE in the Division of Genomic Medicine at National Human Genome Research Institute, in an NIH statement. “The other important component of these grants is implementing what researchers learn about these gene variants into medical settings to improve patient care.”
Many pathologist informaticists and other healthcare IT experts have pointed out that EHRs are not designed to store and handle genetic data. Thus, the pilot project involving UCLA and ActX with the goal of making a patient’s genetic data available to clinicians through UCLA’s Epic EHR system is noteworthy as an early effort to solve this problem.
—Andrea Downing Peck