No matter your age, gender or race, there\u2019s at least two things that each individual has in common.We all have DNA.We each have a unique genomic makeup that we share with no other else.For years, researchers and scientists have searched for different ways to turn genomic data into information that can give a glimpse into a patient\u2019s health story through precision medicine.Precision medicine, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, is \u201can emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.\u201d\u201cWhile precision medicine is commonly referred to as personalized medicine, I think of the two terms differently,\u201d said Matty Francis, director of innovation consulting at Healthbox. Francis studied biomedical engineering and has spent most of his career in the healthcare technology space. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), personalized medicine has seen a decrease in use, while searches for precision medicine have increased significantly.\u201cTo date, both of these terms are often used interchangeably, but I believe it makes sense to segment them into two separate things \u2013 with precision medicine typically describing interventions for a specific population and personalized medicine more focused on an individual care plan,\u201d said Francis.Precision Medicine in Blue, Personalized Medicine in Red; Source: CDCThough the terms are used interchangeably, Francis notes that it is important to understand the nuances between them. Using the term \u2018personalized\u2019 may imply treatments are developed uniquely for each specific individual, which isn\u2019t always the case. Precision medicine is more focused on identifying the most effective approach for a patient\u2019s care based on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.\u201cI think of it from a top-down approach: How can I target a population that has a certain condition and tailor the intervention to that particular population?\u201cA great example would be in cancer care. Historically they have named the type of cancer based on the organ where the tumor first appears \u2013 it doesn\u2019t matter if it spreads to other areas of your body; if you observe it in the lungs first, it\u2019s lung cancer,\u201d Francis explained. \u201cNot all forms of lung cancer are the same. So identifying a group of patients that have the same type of cancer that tends to appear in the lungs \u2013 that top-down approach I view as being precision medicine.\u201cPersonalized medicine comes from the bottom up. You start with the patient, you take a look at their unique characteristics and everything from genetics to microbiome to their lifestyle and zip code. Then you can start to develop treatments for that particular patient.\u201dFrancis noted that most of the work in precision medicine to date has been in cancer care, or oncology. \u201cCancer was the spot where they could make the most impact early on. These are highly complex patients who are often in the hospital for extended periods of time, so you\u2019re able to take more time to design a better care plan.\u201d Although testing for genetic mutations has already been a standard of care in lung cancer, only an estimated 9 to 15% of patients with advanced cancer are eligible for targeted therapies, Kaiser Health News reported.\u201cStep one is finding a way to collect that data. Step two, you need a place to store and transform raw data into information that is actionable. And that\u2019s where organizations need to go,\u201d said Francis. \u201cHaving the technology infrastructure to accommodate this data, and having the processing power to take raw data and translate it into a point where we can look at Patient A and determine what the proper course of treatment is for that particular individual.\u201dThe Role of Genomic DataToday, people have increasing access to their genomic data through direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits \u2013 one example of the many nuances between precision medicine and personalized medicine.When direct-to-consumer kits first evolved in the 1990s, they were considered a luxury. \u201cThe price tag to sequence one person\u2019s DNA was into the billions, and now you can do some tests for a few hundred dollars,\u201d said Francis.Related: How We Benefit from Getting our Genomes Sequenced\u201cWhat\u2019s really compelling is a genetic testing kit\u2019s ability to aggregate all of that data across the population of individuals who have taken their test, and they can then identify patients with a specific mutation \u2013 in a way there would just be no practical way for someone running a more traditional, clinical trial to do,\u201d said Francis. Over the last few years, the popularity of these kits exploded and in 2017, the total number of people using them increased to 12 million.Unsurprisingly, the CDC has expressed concerns about the health profile option bundled into many DNA testing kit packages, which they hope consumers will take with a grain of salt. Recognizing the importance of education and awareness, the CDC has made available public database resources like the Public Health Genomics Knowledge Base (PHGKB).Preparing for the Next Chapter: Social Determinants of Health\u201cIn precision medicine, so much focus has been placed on the genome or DNA and how can we tailor treatment for that,\u201d said Francis. \u201cHowever, there\u2019s a whole other host of other data points that impact care, and I think that one that\u2019s kind of having its first moment in the sun is social determinants of health,\u201d said Francis.Thirty years ago, physicians weren\u2019t trained to ask patients questions about their access to things like food, shelter, water and transportation to medical appointments, Francis explained. \u201cThat\u2019s starting to change as a new generation of physicians are coming out of medical school and residency. As they start to ask those questions, they can build more personalized care plans for these patients,\u201d he said, citing fresh food pantry initiatives as an example.Actionable outcomes are dependent on evidence-supported insights, and one major challenge facing precision medicine is ensuring data obtained is accurate and unbiased. Historically, social and behavior health data was collected through surveys and self-reporting. Today, many precision medicine programs utilize EHR data collected through patient visits to develop insights based on social determinants of health. But in order to leverage the data collected to support these insights, it must be easily retrievable \u2013 another major challenge facing healthcare.\u201cUnless these challenges are addressed, EHR-derived social and behavioral data could limit the usefulness and applicability of precision medicine research,\u201d the American Medical Association warns.In one documented case, seven patients treated for the same condition were told their disease was hereditary, which was later determined to be inaccurate. \u201cMultiple patients, all of whom were of African or unspecified ancestry, received positive reports, with variants misclassified as pathogenic on the basis of the understanding at the time of testing,\u201d the post-study report states.As it turns out, genome-wide association studies have determined that 88% of the genomes are attributed to people of European descent, and that their genomic data is represented more than any other race or nationality in genetics research databases, despite not being the majority race or nationality worldwide. This opens up a wide margin of error.As precision medicine continues to advance and evolve, ensuring the data collection process provides an accurate representation of all races and nationalities will be key to creating insights that are actionable.In this HIMSS TV interview, University of Colorado Assistant Professor Mustafa Ozkaynak discusses the importance of addressing social determinants in the next phase of precision medicine and emphasizes the need for clinical decision support systems and tools that will integrate determinants into clinical data.\u201cThe biggest trick is first earning the confidence of various clinicians to trust these personalized therapies,\u201d said Francis. \u201cWhen I put myself in the shoes of a physician who has undergone extensive training and has decades of experience treating patients; if someone walks into a room immediately suggesting an algorithm\u2019s recommendation over my years of professional experience \u2013 that would probably be a short conversation.\u201d Finding ways to partner with doctors throughout the development process goes a long way toward building that credibility, he added.\u201cIt\u2019s still a developing area of both science and technology so it\u2019s not perfect. It\u2019s important to take all of this with a grain of salt. There will be other factors and it\u2019s not a perfect science at this point. And it might never get there, but it\u2019s certainly getting better.\u201dDISCOVER HOW HEALTHBOX IGNITES INNOVATIONHealthbox, a HIMSS Innovation Company, is a healthcare advisory firm that leading organizations trust with innovation and digital strategy development and execution. Healthbox drives innovation from the inside and out, helping organizations build internal innovation programs in addition to assessing the commercial potential of employee-led projects. They also help organization\u2019s look to the market to find solutions to implement or invest in. Healthbox is proud to work with industry leaders who share their passion for building, harnessing, and advancing solutions to empower the reinvention of healthcare.More Expert Insights From HealthboxStrategic Alignment is Key to Healthcare ConsumerismSocial Determinants of Health: Can ZIP Codes Define Health Outcomes?Process Improvement Should Be Led by People, Supported by TechnologyDownload Healthbox reports | Read the Healthbox blogSign Up for Healthbox\u0027s NewsletterGet monthly insights on healthcare innovation in your inbox.