5 Things You Need to Know About Personalized Healthcare

How to tailor care to your unique needs

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Confused by all this talk of “personalized healthcare”? Have no fear. Here are five facts about personalized healthcare that will help you and your doctors tailor care to your unique needs.  

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1. It all starts with family history

Family history is the cornerstone of personalized healthcare. When we say family history, we are talking about the health of your family members, not whether your great-great-grandfather was a world explorer or a ship captain. Knowing your family’s health history will help your doctor to better predict your risk of developing diseases. What is the easiest way to get this information? Talk to your family. Thanksgiving is National Family History Day, so when you are sitting around the dinner table sharing what you are thankful for, be sure to talk about your health, too! To learn more, check out our previous blog post about family history.

2. It’s not just tomorrow’s vision — it is here now

People tend to think healthcare tailored to their individual needs is something for the distant future. But personalized healthcare is not science fiction — it is here now. Take pharmacogenetics, for example. Pharmacogenetics is available now to help doctors decide which medication and dose would work best for you based on your DNA, and to avoid potentially deadly side effects in some cases. In addition, although not widespread for all conditions, there are genetics tests available to help determine your risk for diseases. For example, a BRCA test used in conjunction with family history can help predict your risk of breast cancer.

3. Your primary care physician is crucial

Much of medicine these days is divided into specialties (urology, gynecology, optometry, oncology), but personalized healthcare starts with your primary care physician (family doctor). Think of primary care physicians as preventive healthcare managers. They can help guide you in all things related to your health. You should schedule regular check-ups with your primary care physician even when you aren’t sick. During these visits, be sure to talk to your doctor about your family history and other personalized healthcare tools.

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4. It’s not just about genetics

Personalized healthcare is more than just your DNA. Personalized healthcare refers to using your family history and all of your individual biologic information (ethnicity, biomarkers, DNA, etc.) to help make decisions about your care. This can mean choosing medications and doses that work better for you or starting preventive screening at an earlier age than what is generally recommended. The goal of all of this is to provide the best possible care — healthcare built around you.

5. Personalized healthcare empowers you

You’re a crucial part of your own healthcare team. Personalized healthcare gives both you and your doctors the information needed to make decisions — from daily lifestyle choices to long-term treatment options — that can help promote early identification of disease or even prevent it all together.

What else do you want to know about personalized healthcare? Let us know in the comments below.

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Kathryn Teng, MD

Kathryn Teng, MD, is Director of the Center for Personalized Healthcare and leads Cleveland Clinic’s efforts to integrate personalized healthcare into standard practice.
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