You may have noticed the terms personalized medicine, individualized or personalized dietary plans, nutrigenomics, and precision medicine cropping up in the news, at professional conferences, or even among conversations with family and coworkers.
All these refer to a new technology called genomics, developed as part of the Human Genome Project.
But what do they mean? How does it work? And more importantly, how can they can benefit you and your company as healthcare transitions from a one-size-fits-all model to a more individualized or personalized approach based on a person’s unique genome or DNA?
You are born with your genes, many of which contain small errors called SNPs (pronounced “snips”) that can predispose you to certain health conditions or affect how your body processes medications. Unlike single gene mutations that cause inherited genetic diseases, gene SNPs don’t act alone; they can interact with one another, the environment, and a person’s dietary and lifestyle choices to create health or disease. While we can’t change our genes, we can change the environment we put them in and make healthier lifestyle choices. Therein lies the power of genomics.
Genomic testing “unzips” a person’s DNA, identifies gene SNPs and then enables personalized evidenced-based health interventions. One example is pharmacogenomics–a new branch of medicine that identifies gene SNPs and how they affect a person’s ability to metabolize a prescribed drug or over-the-counter medication. For a clinician or healthcare professional, genomic testing can help determine what medication(s) are most effective and have minimal risk of adverse effects. Each person can then get the right drug, at the correct dose, delivered at the right time.
Genomic testing can also guide individualized dietary and lifestyle strategies in the prevention and treatment of many common chronic diseases. The results of these tests can help tailor specific nutritional and lifestyle choices to improve health outcomes for individuals with a wide range of chronic illnesses—including obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and emotional disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety). This branch of personalized medicine is nutritional genomics – also known as nutrigenomics – and focuses on how food and lifestyle can “talk” to a person’s genes. Genomic test results help a clinician recommend the right foods, the right amount of nutrients, and the right lifestyle choices to create a healthier food-gene conversation, and more efficiently manage, reduce, or even prevent disease.
These DNA-directed disease prevention and treatment strategies have created a revolution in healthcare– not only improving health outcomes but also saving healthcare resources for companies.
Examples of Genomic Testing as Part of a Corporate Wellness Program
Aetna Insurance Company used genomic testing to devise personalized prevention and treatment plans for its employees with metabolic syndrome, improving health outcomes and saving the company more than $600,000 annually during the two-year study.
Dr. Veltmann, Genoma International Co-Founder, developed and ran a comprehensive, personalized genomic medicine wellness program for a self-insured company with more than 16,000 employees. The company realized a 20 percent reduction in healthcare costs annually for four consecutive years with genomic testing as part of their personalized wellness initiative. Health outcomes improved in men and women suffering from a wide array of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer (breast, prostate, head, and neck), Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and obesity.
Improving Employee Health, Engagement, and Productivity While Reducing Costs
Today, direct healthcare costs continue to rise at an alarming pace; and growing indirect costs related to sick days and suboptimal productivity compound the problem. Finding a comprehensive approach to healthcare that reduces healthcare costs while improving employee health, engagement and productivity is a top priority for many forward-thinking companies.
Genoma’s comprehensive Genomic Medicine program has been shown to generate 20 percent annual savings while improving health outcomes. That’s the best of both worlds—mutually benefiting valuable employees while having a positive impact on the bottom line.