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Pursuing innovation in health care is an essential part of providing the best care for patients. In recent years, precision medicine, which aims to improve efficiency and treatment for patients by using genetic, environmental and lifestyle variabilities to personalize treatments, has come to the forefront of our discussions about improving patient outcomes. Yet, while scientists, researchers and physicians see potential and promise in its capabilities, there are also risks and challenges in its widespread use and adoption.

For health care marketers in this field, it’s important to consider these challenges in order to build messages around them and be prepared to offer thought leadership on the full spectrum of the precision medicine industry.

Medical Data Security and Privacy
Personalized medicine demands the contribution of medical histories and genomes to a massive big data research pool, because the science itself only works if the genomic data sets are large enough to analyze. The ability for researchers to share their genomic information is also crucial to the advancement of their studies. Yet vulnerabilities exist within the system that make it possible for hackers to breach a system and identify patients based on their genetic information. Following several high-profile health data security breaches over the past few years, it’s critical for precision medicine companies to be able to address how they approach data security, and have a plan in place to respond quickly if their records are compromised.

Disparities in Health Insurance and Coverage
Even as new precision medicine tests become available, such as those to identify the BRCA gene, there is a question about whether insurance companies will provide reimbursement for screenings and preemptive treatments — and at what cost to patients. The expense may be too high for even wealthy individuals to pay out of pocket, but knowing that disparities in the quality of health care coverage are often tied to a patient’s socioeconomic status raises concerns about equal access to coverage and treatment that can threaten diverse populations.

Misdiagnosis and Inappropriate Treatments
Applied precision medicine is still in very early stages, and simply having access to a patient’s genetic data doesn’t always present a clear path of action. Identifying a genetic mutation isn’t a guarantee that the patient will ever manifest or even exhibit the symptoms of a disease. In some cases, the overtreatment of the mutation can be more dangerous than the diagnosis itself. There often isn’t enough available testing data to make an accurate prediction about the risks that a mutation presents to a patient or their family.

Precision medicine holds incredible potential for disease treatment and discovery, but it remains a complex and often mysterious field for patients, researchers, physicians and many others. For health care marketers, this represents both an opportunity and a challenge.

Precision medicine companies can educate a broad audience about the field and its advances in personalized patient care, as well as the areas to be cautious of — so work with your CEO to develop a thought-leadership strategy that places him or her at the forefront of this exciting, emerging field. At the same time, companies should be prepared for potential crisis communications scenarios that require a quick, coordinated response and not be caught without the proper protocol prepared. There are many turns ahead as we explore the new frontier of precision medicine together.

Want more tips on how to position your health care company around today’s trending topics? Contact Merritt Group,, today for more information!


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