Health-IT Help for Personalized Medicine

By Allison Proffitt, Digital HealthCare & Productivity staff

November 18, 2008 | Personalized medicine can learn a lot from health-IT, said David Brailer at the Harvard-hosted Personalized Medicine: A Value Proposition conference last week. Brailer, the former “health-IT czar,” proposed that health-IT is about five years ahead of personalized medicine politically and culturally, and that the head start offers wisdom for personalized medicine.

Personalized medicine proponents need to recognize that the full value does not have to be understood by everyone, and really won’t be fully understood by the public, Brailer said. In order to grow, the health-IT movement had to educate experts to communicate with the public.

“We viewed health-IT as a campaign,” Brailer said of his early days as the national coordinator for health-IT at HHS. Brailer’s staff campaigned to Congressmen, governors, and anyone else that would listen, and he believes personalized medicine needs the same grassroots approach. “Personalized medicine needs that level of a war waged,” he said. “It’s not going to drift into the American consciousness.”

The second point Brailer carried from health-IT, is that the burden to prove superiority is on the innovator. Early health-IT efforts asked to be proven wrong, and that doesn’t work, he said. The benefits of personalized medicine must be shown in the real world, in real hospitals, under real conditions, and personalized medicine’s proponents must prove a strong case.

Besides just proving that it works, enthusiasts must show that it saves more money than it costs. Health-IT had to prove long term benefits in concrete amounts, and personalized medicine must do the same, which may be even more challenging in the current tight economic climate.

Finally, Brailer told the audience that they had to show doctors how personalized medicine would work for them in their clinics and hospitals. Just like training physicians to use an EMR, doctors will need to be helped through the change, and shown how to implement personalized medicine in their daily practice.

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