The Future Is Here Leveraging Precision Medicine Today

This post is part of our “Driving Transformation” series, in which Mercer consultants share key take-aways for employers from the 2016 Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit, a recent conference hosted by Mercer’s sibling firm, management consultant Oliver Wyman.  

A session focused on the power and promise of genomics was of particular interest to employers at the conference. Industry leaders discussed how genetic testing has now passed the price-vs.-utility intersection, making genetic assessments a potentially powerful tool to better identify health risks and target treatment for particular conditions. 

Here are some examples of the vendors and their approaches in this space:

  • Counsyl and Color Genomics -- Focus is on identifying inherited cancer genes and genetic counseling. The screening’s intent is to identify gene mutations for members and their providers for the most common hereditary cancers where advanced knowledge makes a difference in pursuing preventive measures or preparing for future implications.
  • Interleukin Genetics -- Provides a genetic test focused on identifying those with a genetic marker that indicates a tendency to over-produce inflammation. Once identified, members are counseled to receive more preventive dental care, which has been shown to lower systemic inflammation. Better managing the chronic inflammation for such diseases as CVD, CAD, and diabetes has been linked to healthcare cost savings.
  • InformedDNA -- Provides a utilization management service for prior authorization of genetic testing. Members complete an online genetic screening tool that helps identify candidates to receive a genetic test. The intent is to prevent unnecessary genetic tests.

The list of companies and approaches goes on and on, from those that focus on identifying gene mutations that impact how drugs are metabolized to those that help an oncologist choose between multiple therapies based on the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor. 

While many of the tests are currently marketed in a direct-to-consumer manner, some of the companies are increasingly focused on the employer market. As genomics continues its rapid evolution, employers need to prepare. Some initial steps include:

  • Conduct a discussion with your health plan to understand its medical policy or recommendations for coverage of genetic tests.
  • Conduct a discussion with your pharmacy benefits manager regarding its recommendations regarding pharmacogenomics.
  • Explore some of the new vendors in this space. Our Mercer LABS team can point you toward vendors that may be of interest. (Mercer LABS evaluates emerging healthcare startups and their ideas, from cutting-edge areas like genomics and ingestible technology to old-fashioned, foundational services like claims processing and provider discounts -- often the areas most in need of disruption! We help prepare these new companies for the challenges of scaling up to serve the employer market.)

Genomics certainly has the potential to transform healthcare in ways we are just beginning to understand. It’s time to prepare for this future.

Maura Cawley
by Maura Cawley

Sub-market Segment Leader

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