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Pharmacogenetic data could be linked to patients’ EMRs

March 19, 2015

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When electronic medical records (EMRs) were first introduced to the healthcare industry, they were met with some skepticism. Fast forward to today and not only has EMR adoption become mainstream, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that over 78% of office-based physicians use them, but now the technological focus has shifted from physician buy-in to novel ways of using the now accepted technology.

With the growth of personalized medicine, embedding genomic data into EMRs has become a point of focus. Researchers at the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois, believe that the addition of pharmacogenetic data to EMRs could drastically reduce adverse reactions to medications and other treatments, as reported by Healthcare IT News.

Genetic data at the point of care
Mark Dunnenberger, M.D., senior clinical specialist in pharmacogenetics at NorthShore's Center for Molecular Medicine, told Healthcare IT News that his organization is taking a long look at how the inclusion of patients' genetic data into EMRs, particularly pharmacogenetic data, can benefit treatments and recoveries.

"It will be like doing drug-drug and drug-allergy checks," Dunnenberger told the source with regard to the power of knowing drug-gene interactions at the point of care. As hospitals continue to experience pharmacogenetic issues, remedying these problems will become increasingly important to both patients and physicians. "There is definitely a need from the community," Dunnenberger added.

Dunnenberger and his team are currently designing an addition to their EMR system that would allow for pharmacogenetic data to be linked to existing patient health information. They are focusing first on establishing "systematic and discrete" data points that are compatible with existing clinical decision support systems. NorthShore has partnered with the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Implementation Consortium, the National Institutes of Health and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for assistance in developing their new system.

More data sources, improved care
The idea of basing clinical treatments off genetic information is not groundbreaking, but the rise of the EMR as a decision support tool has centralized data from previously disparate sources, including individual specialists, previous doctors, and patients themselves. The accumulation of so much data has provided valuable insight into how the human body reacts to certain conditions, and the inclusion of pharmacogenetic data in EMRs could represent an exponential leap forward in physicians' abilities to tailor treatments to individual patients by way of alerts or other notifications. Such functionality may not only improve care, but it could reduce unnecessary or redundant treatments to cut costs as well.