Your Health Questions Answered

What Exactly Is Precision Medicine?

Doctors in Sarasota are offering individualized care that takes genetics, environment and lifestyle into consideration.

By Allison Forsyth April 13, 2022

Image: Kari Perrin

Finding a doctor that caters to your specific needs can be tricky, especially with the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to conventional medicine. However, there's a growing trend around precision medicine, an individualized approach that uses genetic testing to help patients treat chronic disease.

Precision medicine takes into account someone's DNA, environment and lifestyle to inform the best treatment option for them.

Sarah Luce, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, owns Good Medicine in Bradenton. She shares her insights on precision medicine from a holistic perspective.

What are the similarities and differences between the two approaches?

Precision medicine and traditional medicine both utilize conventional medications in order to treat patients. With precision medicine, however, genetic testing will help determine which brand and dosage of medication will work best with a patient's body. For example, if someone if suffering from hypertension, testing will determine which kind of hypertension medicine will work best for them.

"The types of frequency of testing is the biggest difference," Luce says. "Ten to 15 percent of illness can be attributed to underlying genetic alterations."

She says the most common genetic tests are done through blood work and cheek swabbing. There are, however, tests that sample your hair or amniotic fluid, which surrounds the fetus when pregnant).

Test results show if you are at higher risk for a particular disease, and preventative measures can then be taken rather than simply treating at the onset of symptoms.

Which patients benefit most from precision medicine?

Luce says everyone can benefit from precision medicine, but especially those with chronic illnesses. Illnesses that have not gotten better with conventional health care, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, diabetes and even allergies, may be managed.

"People who have certain genetic alterations that are struggling with post-Covid symptoms or long Covid can benefit from an individualized approach like this," Luce adds.

What does treatment involve when it comes to precision medicine?

"In our practice, we understand that lifestyle modification, diet and exercise can make the greatest impact on patients," says Luce. "We are able to spend more time with patients at each appointment, rather than 15-minute time slots at traditional offices, and create personalized plans with them."

Luce practice functional and holistic medicine at Good Medicine, but is also a certified nurse practitioner that is able to prescribe conventional medications and therapy. These can work in conjunction with natural supplements, vitamins and other special regimens.

"Ultimately, my goal would be to help patients reduce symptoms and get to feeling better, whether that's through prescribing conventional medication or helping them get off medications if they desire and if medically appropriate," says Luce. "With precision medicine, we are working in tandem with patients instead of simply telling them what to do."

How accessible is precision medicine? Is it covered by insurance?

Good Medicine does not accept insurance, but Luce offers plans for those under financial hardship. Other personalized medical practices may accept insurance, depending on the type.

One practice, called Sarasota Personal Medicine, offers annual membership fees where patients pay out of pocket, but can hold health insurance and Medicare for services provided outside the practice.

"Unfortunately, many suffering with chronic issues are under-insured, cash pay or pay for services out of pocket as opposed to high premiums every month. This can be upsetting for patients," says Luce. "It's also frustrating as a practitioner when insurance dictates how much time I can spend with clients."

"We cannot name, blame and tame an issue in 15-minute time slots," she continues. "We need time to unearth the issue and appreciate where the patient is coming from financially, physically and emotionally."

What's the future of precision medicine?

Luce predicts that precision medicine will continue to grow in Sarasota-Manate and beyond because it helps patients feel more empowered in regard to their health. It can can help theme understand how their body works, become advocates for their health care and learn how to nourish and treat their bodies.

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