Spectrum Health joins $1.45B initiative

Spectrum Health is taking part in executing a $1.45-billion federal project to enroll 1 million people in a 10-year study to benefit precision medicine.

Precision medicine is an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes, according to information released from the program.

If patients get sick, precision medicine may help doctors find treatments that work best based on individual factors.

By partnering with 1 million diverse people who share information about themselves over the years, the All of Us Research Program will enable researchers to more precisely prevent and treat a variety of health conditions.

Dave Chesla, director of research operations at Spectrum, said he predicts this study, which he said is the largest general population study of its kind, will transform the way doctors care for their patients.

In the program, participants are asked to share different types of health and lifestyle information, including through online surveys and electronic health records, which will continue to be collected over the course of the program.

Some participants will be asked to visit local partner sites throughout the program’s duration to provide blood and urine samples and basic stats.

To ensure the program gathers information from all types of people, especially those who have been underrepresented in research, not everyone will be asked to give physical measures and samples.

The goal of the program is to give researchers a better understanding of how physicians’ increased knowledge of patients can improve care, Chesla said.

Without the type of knowledge given through this program, such as background and lifestyle, it can be difficult for physicians to give patients specific medical advice, said Chesla, who also is enrolled in the study.

“Most of our smartphones and social media pages know more about us than our physicians do,” he said.

Participants in the program likely will receive the “unintended benefits” of gaining some medical understanding and learning more about their own health through providing information, Chesla said.

Spectrum is part of one of 10 consortiums around the country with a similar role in the program. The other organizations in Spectrum’s consortium are Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; Baylor Scott and White Research Institute in Texas; Essentia Health, based in Minnesota; and University of Massachusetts Medical School.

These organizations enroll participants, raise public awareness about the program, and gather and curate participant data for use in research.

More than 100 organizations throughout the country have partnered to help carry out different aspects of the program. Some of those organizations include the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Mayo Clinic, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the YMCA.

A focus of the program is to engage traditionally underserved populations, Chesla said, including geographically diverse. He said many in rural communities typically are underserved.

“Those are populations that normally don’t have access to research or truly don’t think about research until they’re sick,” he said.

Spectrum has chosen its clinic locations to attract a diverse sampling of the area’s populations. Multiple clinics will operate throughout the system at all times, but some may shift in response to seasonal population trends.

In the future, participants may be invited to share data through wearable devices and join follow-up research studies, including clinical trials.

In future phases of the program, children will be able to enroll, and the program will add more data types, such as genetic data.

Data from the program will be broadly accessible for research purposes. Participants will be able to access their own health information, summary data about the entire participant community and information about studies and findings from All of Us.

Since enrollment opened earlier this month, Spectrum has recruited more than 1,000 people, Chesla said, and the overall program has more than 30,000 enrollees so far.

To learn more about the program and how to join, visit joinallofus.org.

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