SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—HonorHealth is a community hospital group, not an academic medical center, but it has nevertheless committed significant resources to its research programs.
Some of its early work over the past several years has centered on finding targeted therapeutics for cancer, and it has had good success. But the five-hospital system is increasingly interested in finding biomarkers that can help predict who might be at risk for illness.
HonorHealth is one of a number of health systems that are investing in genomics and personalized medicine as the next frontier in healthcare. As providers are tasked with keeping people healthy through risk-based payment contracts, they're searching for new ways to target patients who need early intervention. Venture capital funds also have been flowing into the space, as investors expect rapid growth.
“A lot of health systems are looking to be on the cutting edge of that,” said Melissa Bianchi, a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells. “There's also the potential to reduce healthcare costs.”
This work is being done not only by traditional academic research programs, but increasingly by community health systems whose first mission is patient care. While academic medical centers are still at the forefront of such research, large integrated-delivery networks are laying their groundwork through partnerships with companies or laboratories that perform genetic analyses, Bianchi said.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HonorHealth, for instance, is hoping to identify biomarkers, perhaps detectable through molecular imaging that can signal the risk of pancreatic cancer up to two years before symptoms develop. Beyond oncology, it is also looking for biomarkers that might indicate an increased risk for ventilator-acquired pneumonia, a dangerous (and expensive) hospital-acquired infection that can increase length of stay.