Advances at the interface between biomedicine and IT are leading to rapid growth in the amount of data available – genomics and other omics data, clinical data from hospitals and primary care, data from biobanks, and self-tracking health data (generated by individuals themselves). Personalized health uses this data to identify disease risks at an early stage, to tailor medical treatments to specific patient groups and to develop public health strategies.
Personalized or precision medicine relies on big data to optimize healthcare for individual patients – from prevention to diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. The aims of personalized health are more far-reaching: data-driven findings should benefit not only individuals, but also the entire population, e.g. by enabling early identification of disease risks and the development of appropriate health strategies for those concerned.
While the explosion in health data offers major opportunities for medical research and public health, the collection, storage and analysis of data raise numerous questions concerning quality, security and ownership, as well as the key issues of comparability and interoperability.
Fundamentals for the training of health professionals
Convinced that health professionals should have a common base knowledge of personalized medicine, the SAMS has published in 2019 a guide for pregraduate, postgraduate and continuing interprofessional education. The publication was conceived as a reference document presenting the current state of knowledge. It is available in French or German and can be downloaded in either full version or as individual chapters.
Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN)
The opportunities and challenges of personalized health have also been recognized by the federal government: under the Federal Council Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) for 2017–2020 (available in French and German), the «Swiss Personalized Health Network» initiative was launched. The SPHN aims to establish a nationally coordinated data infrastructure connecting the relevant institutions (research hospitals, universities, etc.). The focus is on the networking of existing hospital information systems. Specifically, the interoperability of clinical data is to be assured for purposes of research. In addition to «technical» matters, priority is being accorded to questions of data protection and data security. The SAMS has organizational, legal and financial responsibility for the development of the SPHN. Further information on sphn.ch.
A main topic for the Swiss Academies
Personalized health is increasingly influencing medicine, and the large-scale collection and analysis of health data raise challenging questions for various scientific disciplines, individuals and society as a whole. Against this background, the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences have defined personalized health as a main topic to be jointly addressed by the member bodies over the period 2017–2020. With the launch of the «Made to measure» public dialogue project and an online information portal, two significant milestones have already been reached.
Public dialogue project
With an online video and survey, and events in German- and French-speaking Switzerland, the Swiss Academies are inviting the public to engage in a dialogue on personalized health. Further details of the project led by the Science et Cité Foundation are available on the project website in French and German.
Information portal on naturalsciences.ch
The Forum for Genetic Research of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) operates an information portal on the topic of personalized health, covering methods and applications, the current state of research, the legal framework, economic aspects, etc. This information is continuously updated and expanded. The target group consists of members of the public who have limited knowledge in this area but are interested in biology and health. Visit the new online platform in French or German.
Various events on the subject of personalized health have already been organized by the SAMS. Conference programmes/presentations and information on forthcoming events can be found here: