Five strategies towards personalized healthcare

Simone Edelmann, PhD

Editor at

Five strategies towards personalized healthcare

10 February 2020 | 6min

Quick Takes

  • The advancement of medical knowledge, technology and data science is quickly transforming the healthcare landscape and paving the way towards personalized care

  • Driving this revolutionary change is data and the ability to extract meaningful health insights

  • Of course, as with any change, there are challenges to overcome. Download our free ebook to help you on your journey to deliver more personalized healthcare

From “one size fits all” to personalized healthcare 

Until the recent paradigm shift towards personalized healthcare, healthcare professionals were tasked with the “one size fits all” approach to medicine: treat as many patients as possible with the same treatment. However, the observed medical outcomes of why some patients responded well to a certain therapy, while others did not, were poorly understood.

In primary care, there became an urgent need to target specific medications to specific populations. With our improved understanding of human and disease biology and the advancement of new tools and modern diagnostics, this was made possible – as illustrated by the evolution and new era of companion diagnostics.

Today we are at a pivotal moment in healthcare history. The digitization of high-quality healthcare data, including diagnostic, treatment, and outcome data from varying sources (ie. real-world, clinical trials, and medical history) has tremendous potential. 

From this patient data and advanced analytics, we will be able to answer key scientific questions and harness meaningful medical insights that will render a granular view of individual patients. This will lead to the personalization of healthcare – ensuring the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

PHC ensures the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

The many sides and benefits of personalized healthcare for better health outcomes

Personalized healthcare (PHC), which includes the terms personalized medicine and precision medicine, aims to ensure that the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and even prevention of diseases will more quickly and effectively transform patients’ lives. It is a multifaceted approach to patient care that encompasses:1

PHC aims to ensure that the screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases will more quickly and effectively transform patients’ lives.

The potential benefits of PHC support both better outcomes and more efficient use of healthcare resources. These include, but are not limited to: 

1. Decreased trial-and-error medicine and potential adverse drug reactions

  • Provide diagnostic tests to help identify patients most likely to respond (and not respond) to a specific treatment (eg. companion diagnostics)
  • Aid in the development of safer treatments

2. Increased understanding of disease

  • Understand contributing factors to disease manifestation and progression 
  • Identify and develop improved treatments and testing procedures 

3. Increased provision of preventive healthcare

  • Identify patients at increased risk of suffering from a certain disease and create opportunities for preventive measures to be taken

4. Increased speed and accuracy of diagnosis

  • Allow a more precise diagnostic and prognostic assessment of patients with the chance of earlier and more specific treatment

5. Decreased time, burden and cost of drug development

  • Predict pharmacogenetics in advance with simulations
  • Allow for clinically meaningful trials on smaller patient subgroups qualified by specific biomarkers

Market opportunities and challenges for healthcare providers

Drivers of industry growth

Increasing prevalence and economic burden of chronic diseases5.6

Chronic diseases, or noncommunicable diseases, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide.7 According to the World Economic Forum, the cost of treating the five leading chronic diseases — cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease, and respiratory disease — could reach US$ 47 trillion over the next 15 years.8 

A large part of chronic conditions may be prevented.8,9 PHC can help to identify at-risk patients for a number of chronic conditions, enabling early medical diagnosis for more successful treatment response, or even disease prevention through effective intervention. 

Rapid advancements in relevant technology5.6

The advancement of “omic” technologies such as genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics, has generated a deeper understanding of disease pathology and progression, and new methodologies for monitoring treatment response.10-12 

As relevant technologies such as next-generation sequencing (NGS) become cheaper, more reliable, and accessible, there will be a surge in their use to better classify and profile medical conditions. In turn, this will drive a more personalized approach to managing and treating patients. 

Development of big data analytics solutions5 

The goal of PHC is to make collected health data of pragmatic value to clinicians. Routinely collected healthcare data is growing in complexity and volume.13 In 2020, it is estimated that the amount of medical data will reach 2,314 exabytes (1 exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes).14 The principal types of big data in biomedical research stem from multiomics, imaging, device data, and electronic health records.13 

New methods dedicated to improving data collection, storage, cleaning, processing, and interpretation continue to be developed at a rapid pace. Big data analytics and solutions software will be the key for healthcare providers to monetize their collected data and add value to their business, while improving health outcomes for patients. 

Growing healthcare expenditure5,6 

Global healthcare expenditure projected to reach just over US$ 10 trillion by 2022.15 

Main cost drivers include:15

  • Aging and growing populations
  • Market expansion into developing countries
  • Clinical and technological advancements
  • Rising labor costs   

Shifting the focus from “sickcare” to preventive healthcare that embraces a value-based over a fee-for-service-based delivery model will be crucial to the affordability, accessibility, and sustainability of future healthcare systems.15,16 PHC plays an essential role in this transition, which is already underway in advanced economies.16

Challenges to industry growth

Lack of data integrity

The success of PHC will rely on the integrity of stored health data – ie. the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the data throughout its lifecycle. With the vast amount of data to call upon, there are indeed challenges that threaten data integrity stemming from:17-19,28  

  • Data collection 
  • Data volume and complexity  
  • Data transformation 

Reimbursement coverage20-22 

As healthcare becomes more personalized, so does the complexity of pricing and reimbursement. Pricing should not only reflect the sum of the diagnostic tests or monotherapies used for a patient, but also the combined benefits delivered to patients, their families, payers, and societies.  

Payers increasingly want more evidence about the effectiveness of new diagnostics or new medicines, as well as the potential budget impact each treatment plan might have. Personalized healthcare solutions hold the potential to improve medical outcomes, provided that their economical value can be demonstrated and data uncertainties addressed.21

Regulatory uncertainty21,22 

Regulatory uncertainty is reported as one of the main barriers to realizing the potential of PHC.22 Existing regulations have been cited as being inapplicable to PHC interventions and the amount of data generated by new technologies, such as NGS, poses new challenges for regulatory bodies.23 

The transformation of healthcare to a personalized approach will also require a transformation to the standards and protocols to assess personalized diagnostics and treatments. However, this change is already underway as shown by the number of “personalized medicine” approvals in recent years (42% of all 2018 new drug approvals as reported by the FDA).24 Furthermore, the International Consortium for Personalised Medicine, (ICPerMed) launched in 2016 has stated as an agenda item to establish Europe as a global leader in personalized medicine research.25,26

How health systems can deliver more personalized care?

In summary, the advancement of medical knowledge, digital technology, and data science is quickly transforming the healthcare landscape and paving the way to patient-centric personalized care. 

Of course, as with any change, there are challenges to overcome. 

We’ve put together 5 key strategies to help you on your journey toward delivering more personalized healthcare solutions. 

What we aim to answer:

  • What is personalized healthcare (PHC) and why is it the future of healthcare?
  • What are the major market drivers and challenges of the PHC market?
  • What are the technologies that can have the largest impact towards improving patient outcomes and delivery of care?
  • What strategies can healthcare executives use to deliver personalized treatment and improve patient outcomes?

Simone Edelmann, PhD is an editor and contributor at After completing her PhD from the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, she found her passion in medical and scientific communications. She is dedicated to delivering high-quality content on the topic of the future of healthcare to our readers.


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