Social Precision Medicine

Precision Medicine Can Be Social In Nature

Precision medicine is personalized medicine; but, when we hear the words “precision medicine,” we often think about genes. Precision medicine doesn’t only exist in relation to our DNA, though. Precision medicine can be social in nature, too. A core component of precision medicine is meeting the needs of each individual patient. Precision medicine pays attention to patient goals, wants, and needs, and it acknowledges fears and concerns. More than anything, precision medicine is targeted medicine. It connects patients with exactly who and what they need to know about, and it makes it possible for the cancer experience to be less disruptive.

Having the resources and tools to find assistance with school, manage mental health, go grocery shopping, pay medical bills, and find a way to travel to treatment is another form of precision medicine. These tasks take specific knowledge and resources that cancer communities have their own way of dealing with and knowing about. So many organizations tackling these issues exist, but patients often find out about them far after their diagnosis, or even years after their treatment and when they could have utilized their services the most.

Precision Medicine Needs To Be Accessible

Precision medicine of any kind does not matter if it is not accessible. - Charlie BlotnerPrecision medicine of any kind does not matter if it is not accessible. A clinical trial that a patient may be eligible for but cannot travel to is not precision medicine tailored to an individual’s needs. Tailored treatment acknowledges a cancer patient’s identity outside of simply being a patient and recognizes barriers to care. We need precision medicine in the clinical sense, but we cannot forget about precision medicine on the social welfare and well-being front, either. Luckily, we don’t have to.

For example, the organization Corporate Angel Network can help with traveling cross-country to treatment. By utilizing this service, patients can fly as often as necessary at no cost to them, making trials once inaccessible, accessible. Much of the promise of clinical trials is to receive potentially lifesaving treatment not available in a patient’s local area, and with a service like this, it’s actually attainable. Because of the private nature of these flights, patients can avoid many of the dangers they might run into when traveling commercially, too. While most financial assistance programs require a certain financial qualification, this program does not, reducing the financial burden of traveling for all cancer patients along with one travel companion seeking treatment.

Precision medicine needs to meet patients where they are in all aspects of care. Individualized care incorporates travel as part of patient cost and needs. When patients are asked about barriers to care, and particularly barriers to clinical trials, a lack of finances to travel to trials whether that is cross-country or to another county because of lack of reimbursement is frequently brought up. While Corporate Angel Network can help with cross-country traveling, those funding clinical trials need to be willing to reimburse patients in their trials for shorter distance travel costs as well. Finding a clinical trial is difficult enough — why should getting there be too?

Social precision medicine makes clinical precision medicine possible. Without access to transportation, other social necessities, and resources, patients would not be able to join clinical trials and partake in what is typically thought of as precision medicine. Please see this page for a selection of helpful resources.

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Charlie Blotner Precision Medicine Advocate

Charlie Blotner Precision Medicine Advocate

Charlie Blotner is a senior undergraduate student in Family & Human Development at Arizona State University. Charlie has a passion for increasing clinical trial participation, and wants to empower patients to make the most informed medical decisions for themselves possible with the most research information possible. Charlie has spoken at Stanford Medicine X and believes in the power of patient storytelling. As a brain tumor survivor and patient advocate, Charlie co-moderates Brain Tumor Social Media (#BTSM) Chats on Twitter. More than anything, Charlie wants to be able to contribute to the work that helps patients to be able to breathe easier.
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