- Healthcare providers are adding genetic testing and AI to their mHealth platforms in a bid to create more personalized health and wellness coaching services.
The latest collaboration following this trend, announced this week, teams 23andMe with Lark Health, a developer of chronic disease management programs as well as a diabetes prevention program.
“Access to your genetic information is really just the beginning — using that information to prevent serious health consequences is the next critical step,” Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said in a press release. “Our collaboration with Lark enables 23andMe customers to use their genetic information in a clinically validated program to help them make lifestyle changes to improve their health.”
With digital health tools offering access to more and more health data, providers, payers and even consumers are looking for ways to harness that information to guide care management and improve outcomes.
That includes genetic data. Two years ago, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that patient-generated health data (PGHD) and individualized genomics will become two of the most impactful data sources for clinical decision support, population health management and care coordination over the next five years.
“We have entered an exciting era where big data has the potential to become a game changer for health care,” said the report’s author, Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health. “Providers are poised to put data into the hands of consumers and payers to drive a value-oriented care delivery system that enlightens patients about their health and the path to affordable care.”
23andMe executives noted that recent research on some 400,000 people who’d had their DNA analyzed found genetic variants associated with body weight. The analysis also identified lifestyle choices that affect weight change in people with similar genetic information.
Lark Health is integrating that genetic data into its mHealth coaching programs, giving users access to more personalized guidance on weight loss and healthy living. Those programs can then be marketed to healthcare providers and health plans (as well as individual consumers) looking to refine and improve chronic disease management.
The advent of at-home genetic testing services like 23andMe, Ancestry.com, Vitagene, HomeDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritageDNA isn’t without controversy. Some have questioned whether this type of diagnostic testing is accurate enough to affect healthcare decisions.
“The idea is good, but without the proof of peer-reviewed publications with prospective study, we have no knowledge whether these algorithms have any benefit,’’ Eric Topol, a geneticist at the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute, told Bloomberg. “Until then, the value of this is completely unknown, uncertain. It could be the coaching turns out to be the same for all people instead of the idea it is individualized.”