NorthShore's Dr. Peter Hulick discusses the hospital's genetic testing program: 3 questions

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Peter Hulick, MD, medical director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill.

Dr. Hulick will speak on a panel during the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference titled "Advanced Primary Care: Making Genetic Medicine a Reality," at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: In the past 12 months, how have you adapted to new patient experience expectations in the age of consumerism?

Dr. Peter Hulick: Patient interest in genetic testing continues to rise, whether it is "recreational genomics" such as Ancestry.com, or tools to unlock genetics to better understand one's health risks. In an effort to provide greater knowledge, proactive insights and preventive care, NorthShore University HealthSystem offers a Genetic and Wellness Assessment tool, which is completed ahead of a patient's annual physical exam. Patients are asked questions that lead to the potential for pharmacogenomics testing, which is the ability to identify more effective drugs based on an individual's DNA, as well as a "healthy gene panel," which is offered when more targeted testing is not indicated based on personal and family history. NorthShore is engaging patients who are interested in proactively incorporating their genetic information into their care and helping primary care physicians integrate this approach into their care plan.

Q: What's one conviction in healthcare that needs to be challenged? 

PH: We must challenge the notion that genomics-guided care is not scalable across a healthcare system. NorthShore is proof that this is possible when the infrastructure is in place to support all the genetic information. NorthShore's EHR system is designed so patients' test results can be accessed by physicians in the same way they access other patient information, such as health records and family history. This allows for every patient's information to be all in one place and enables physicians to provide the best care possible. We see that patients react positively to this opportunity, and 75 percent of our 95,000-plus eligible patient encounters have completed the GWA assessment tool to screen for potential indications for genetic risk assessment.

Q: How do you promote innovation within your organization? 

PH: Innovation comes by breaking down traditional boundaries and silos to healthcare delivery. The NorthShore Center for Personalized Medicine organizes its efforts to overcome these obstacles. This allows us to pilot novel models for incorporating genomic information quickly and efficiently, and then bringing them to scale across our health systems. This approach provides us with real-world experience and maintains our nimbleness to adapt and improve our program. By integrating workflows into the EHR, we have created dashboards to monitor each step of the GWA process and have identified "problem spots" and intervened — whether it is from an operations standpoint or providing support to primary care physicians in managing the next steps for patients whose genetic test results were positive and where intervention was recommended.

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