Geisinger execs: DNA sequencing program saving patient lives

Geisinger Health System CEO David Fineberg, MD, and other top executives said Geisinger’s gene sequencing program is helping to better project adverse health issues in the short-term and the hospital is expecting even better results to come.

Geisinger’s DNA sequencing project has the potential to identify virtually everyone in its patient population to pinpoint increased risk for early onset, inherited cancer and cardiac events.

“Already we have identified more than 500 patients who are at increased risk for disease and have uncovered previously undetected cases of cancer and heart disease, allowing our doctors to treat these much earlier than they could have otherwise,” Fineberg, Geisinger Director of Precision Health Huntington Willard and Chief Scientific Officer David Ledbetter wrote in a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review. 

The authors said about 3 percent of Geisinger patients have genetic variants that can be used to influence their health and that health forecasting is now essential to health management and wellness. 

“Over time, as we sequence the exomes of more and more of our patients and learn even more about particular genome variants and their impact on different health conditions, we predict that as many as 10 percent to 15 percent of our patients will benefit,” they wrote. “Precision healthcare reduces uncertainty and allows them to take charge.”

Geisinger executives working on the initiative give much of the credit to the health system’s decade-old biobank MyCode Community Health Initiative and the genome sequencing work undertaken to determine the DNA of more than 90,000 patients.

“Geisinger family members no longer have to rely on the law of averages to forecast their health and make plans about their life and how they live it. For these patients, precision health care reduces uncertainty and allows them to take charge,” they wrote. “For clinicians, the technologies help us achieve, finally, what should be the true goal of medicine — keeping our patients well.”

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