Health Systems Increase Focus on Precision Medicine

Health systems are increasingly collaborating with consumer genetic testing companies to support their primary care clinics and making genetic testing a routine part of clinical work flow.

Beginning in 2014, Sanford Health was an early adopter in this effort. The health system now employs 25 genetic counselors in primary care clinics and has partnered with Augustana University to develop a master’s degree program in genetic counseling.

Color and Sanford Health are working together to strengthen and scale Sanford’s genomics program, Imagenetics. Sanford Health and Color plan to build on the success of Imagenetics and provide physicians with access to innovation, data, and insights to enhance clinical decision-making.

More patients of NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) will soon be able to get genetic testing through their primary care doctors. NorthShore partnered with Color Genomics (Color) in early 2019 to test 10,000 primary care patients at about half of its primary care clinics.

The testing helps patients determine if they are at higher risk of developing certain conditions such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer and heart disease. The test results can also be used to help patients find the most effective pain and depression medications based on their genetics. The test sequences a person’s whole genome. The Color tests offered by NorthShore can be used in medical decision-making.

Ochsner Health System is also working with Color on a digital population health screening program where people can learn about their family history of disease by identifying increased risk for diseases like those. Ochsner clinical teams can talk further about care plans with patients.

Geisinger Health’s precision medicine project MyCode, launched in 2018, has enrolled 250,000 participants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To date, the project has both DNA sequence and health data on 145,000 of those participants and has returned medically actionable results to nearly 1,500 participants.

Geisinger does not have its own sequencing operation for MyCode, and has instead partnered with Tarrytown, NY, biopharma Regeneron and its Regeneron Genetic Center to completing the testing and generate each patient genetics report.


Takeaway: Health systems are increasing education efforts and employing genetic counselors in primary care clinics.