In recent years, genomics has become more than simply sequencing DNA after a diagnosis to learn more about a condition. It is now being utilized as an invaluable tool for making informed, proactive care decisions. In March, Caroline Brown, MBA, Chief Strategy & External Affairs Officer at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and Daniel Judge, MD, Cardiologist and Principal Investigator and Director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Program at MUSC, came together with Elissa Levin, VP of Medical Affairs and Services at Helix to discuss how their population genomics initiative, In Our DNA SC, is bringing precision care to all South Carolinians.
Launched as a partnership between MUSC and Helix, In Our DNA SC is a population genomics initiative that utilizes Helix’s end-to-end Sequence Once, Query Often™ model. The aim of the program is to deliver actionable genetic insights to care teams, at scale, and to empower health systems and the patients they serve to be more informed and proactive in their care. Here are our key takeaways:
1. MUSC is uncovering genetic risk at population scale to provide more preventative and proactive care to South Carolina with a simple message around the power of knowledge. With 23,500 patients already enrolled in the program, In Our DNA SC is making great strides towards their 100,000 patient goal. “We really try to emphasize for people that knowledge is power, understanding in advance before you develop breast cancer, colon cancer, or cardiovascular disease, that you have a genetic tendency to those conditions and that we can be proactive about that genetic tendency to start therapies or earlier screening to lower the incidence of those conditions,” Judge said.
2. Closing care gaps is critical to ensuring we see the full value of genetic screening. Once sequenced, patients are notified of CDC Tier 1 results via email and care teams provided results via the EHR. This ensures connection with appropriate providers and genetic counselors within MUSC. This partnership, between Helix and MUSC, means patients are set onto the correct clinical care paths, and providers follow through, bridging gaps and optimizing care to ensure patients’ needs are met. By having a clear path forward, patients receive the necessary care.
3. Enterprise-wide genomics initiatives are driving transformation and strategic growth. “We know that providers coming out of training are increasingly wanting to be part of an organization using precision medicine, who are taking tangible steps to integrate it into practice,” shared Brown. The return on investments that health systems may see as the result of adopting population genomics programs and initiatives lies not only in acquiring innovative talent but also in expanding the patient pool, establishing themselves as trusted providers for future screenings and treatment. Data is also an invaluable currency in research — large, clean datasets collected from population genomics initiatives provide the foundation for both academic and clinical researchers to acquire extramural funding.
4. Population genomics programs must be supported and driven by community members. South Carolina, like many states in the United States, has diverse racial and socioeconomic populations. Intentional work to build relationships within the community and with individuals will be the key to In Our DNA SC and MUSC’s success. In population genomics programs, experts constitute not only physicians and staff but also community members who establish trust and know how to best engage with family and friends. Addressing barriers and facilitators to populations who are often ostracized and mistreated in the clinical field will ensure healthcare continues to become more accessible to those who need it most.
While there has been a push to integrate genomics into health systems over the last two decades, organizations are now taking tangible steps to partner with large-scale providers to take advantage of their seamless systems and stand at the forefront of medicine. Reach out to our team to learn about how we partner with organizations across the country to drive population genomics initiatives that will lower costs while improving patient care.
Watch on-demand webinar now: Unlocking Precision Care at Population Scale in South Carolina