Bringing Physicians Up to Speed on Precision Medicine

May 20, 2019

An article co-authored by John Rowe, MD, the Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, discusses the benefits and limitations of precision medicine. The findings are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

With medicine gravitating away from developing treatment strategies based on individual case reports, physicians are increasingly relying on evidence-based medicine, using data from randomized clinical trials to inform treatment decisions. Because this approach often relies on large data sets, they highlight what works best on average, while neglecting the underlying genetic differences that trigger disease and affect response to treatment at the individual level.  

Precision medicine, which uses genetic sequencing techniques to look at the underlying genetic causes of disease, may be a solution to this blind spot. But new and sophisticated technologies, combined with the complexities of interpreting genetic data, present significant challenges to many physicians. The article co-authored by Rowe is designed to help clinicians understand the basics of sequencing, interpret genetic data, and navigate ethical, legal, and privacy issues.

“Widespread application of precision medicine will depend on having patients trust it, physicians adopt it, and insurance companies pay for it,” said Rowe.

The article is part of a series by Columbia physicians and researchers that will offer insight into the power and pitfalls of precision medicine in clinical practice.

Read the article.