Personalized Medicine – Through the Eyes of the Physician

70% of primary care physicians, neurologists and cardiologists expect personalized medicine to become routine in their own clinical practice within five years.

70% of primary care physicians, neurologists and cardiologists expect personalized medicine to become routine in their own clinical practice within five years - A great deal of discussion is ongoing about what personalized medicine will mean for the patient and for the pharma industry, but how prepared is the physician?

Advances in molecular diagnostics are enabling physicians to match patients with the best therapy options across a range of disease areas. While these advances hold great promise for the future of medicine, healthcare professionals have found themselves with a number of changes and extensions to their role, from selecting and ordering diagnostic tests, to interpreting the results and selecting appropriate treatment, as well as managing difficult conversations when a test result puts a new drug out of a patient’s reach.

We sought the views of over 400 US and European physicians* to assess their knowledge gaps and educational needs in all areas of personalized medicine, as well as the level of confidence in their evolving role.

As expected, many oncologists are routinely involved in personalized medicine, but the surprising finding was the conviction amongst physicians in other therapy areas that personalized medicine will become a positive force in clinical practice within a very short time frame.

This positive influence was anticipated across a wide range of applications including identifying disease predisposition, patient stratification, prognosis, treatment selection, and the efficient allocation of resources – 95% of physicians indicated that they expected to see this positive influence and a high proportion of oncologists are seeing beneficial effects already. With such clear support from the medical profession it becomes even more important to put doctors at the heart of any personalized medicine communications strategy, and that means understanding their unmet educational needs.

As more targeted therapies and companion diagnostics become available, physicians will be faced with a wealth of information. Translating this into improved clinical practice will require curation of the data and education of the user, an issue that will become more pressing as genomic testing enters the mainstream.

Education of both physician and patient is also critical for informed consent, a practical and ethical hurdle to trial recruitment and clinical practice in the future. Although personalized medicine is expected to reach physicians of all disciplines, the majority of physicians have had no formal education in this area either at medical school or since. While 37% of oncologists claim to be ‘very familiar’ with the issues and advances in personalized medicine, this drops to 6% for other specialities and 5% for PCPs.

So where are the educational needs most urgent? Physicians identified areas fundamental to the implementation of personalized medicine where they felt an urgent need for guidance. These ranged from clarity on how diagnostic tests are to be paid for, to the need for tools and publications to support both patient conversations and clinical decision-making. Although personalized medicine is expected to be part of routine practice within five years, unmet needs were identified across all areas from policy regulation and funding, through evidence, clinical practice, and patient education. Unsurprising then that doctors are feeling exposed and anxious about fulfilling the role that is expected of them.

How is it that when the pharma industry has worked so hard to overcome the hurdles facing personalized medicine, the key practitioners feel so unprepared? Great foresight has been shown in collaborative efforts such as the generation of data-sharing standards for future sequencing technologies, and engagement in adaptive multi-drug trials. Despite this, most tactical communications are aimed at Key Experts and are tied to specific drugs – a clear disconnect remains between the specialists and the grassroots medical professionals who will be implementing personalized medicine in only a few short years. The pharma industry must tap into the existing enthusiasm and positivity within the medical community to unlock the full potential of personalized medicine and give physicians the tools and the confidence to lead the way. So how can we understand the knowledge gaps of healthcare professionals to ensure communications and educational efforts have maximum effect? We can start by asking the physician.

*Extracts from a study of 446 oncologists, cardiologists, neurologists and PCPs in the US and EU designed and conducted Summer 2012 by Adelphi Group in association with CAHG and Medefield.

For further information about this research program please contact


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