Lee Hood’s P4 Initiative Finds Community Partner, PeaceHealth

3/15/12Follow @xconomy

Leroy Hood‘s fledgling institute for personalized medicine struck its first big partnership with an academic medical center two years ago. Now it’s branching out to include some Northwest hospitals that are philosophically a lot closer to the community than to the academy.

The P4 Medicine institute, a nonprofit inside the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology, is announcing today it has formed an alliance with PeaceHealth, a nonprofit Catholic health system with 17,000 employees at community medical locations around Washington, Oregon & Alaska. PeaceHealth is the first community health system to enter the P4 medicine network, after Ohio State University became the first academic medical center to join two years ago.

By working with the Institute for Systems Biology and Ohio State, PeaceHealth is seeking to put itself on the edge of Hood’s “P4″ vision, shorthand for predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory medicine. This is about using the new tools of molecular biology and software to analyze genes and proteins not just for understanding basic cell processes, but also to help monitor patients and guide their wellness before symptoms of disease pop up. By running some pilot projects with both academic and community hospitals, Hood’s institute hopes to establish a road map that other institutions might be able to follow.

“Health and wellness, prevention, is a part of our mission and always has been,” says Peter Adler, PeaceHealth’s senior vice president for strategy, innovation and development. He notes that PeaceHealth isn’t a primary research center—its job is to deliver care to patients—but it sees itself as an early adopter that can put good research ideas into practice.

“We think PeaceHealth can be the downstream leg, once there’s an innovation that’s proven clinically effective, we then become the operational site, the mainstreaming side of the partnership,” Adler says. “We can feed the information we get back into ISB and Ohio State. And we will share our successes with the healthcare community at large. We have the ability to spread innovation rapidly across our clinics—we think we can be a platform.”

PeaceHealth also has an advantage with deep roots in the communities it serves. With more than 100 years of history, it has longstanding relationships built up with families, often treating several generations of family members in small communities. Those relationships could be important to scientists who are looking to study families as they narrow down their searches for abnormal genes and proteins.

Mauricio Flores, left, executive director of the P4 Medicine institute, with Leroy Hood

Hood says he’s been looking for a community health partner for a long time to join the P4 Medicine institute, because he doesn’t want the vision to be limited to a bunch of rarefied academic centers.

“I’m an incredible democrat,” Hood says. “By that I mean healthcare should be for all patients. I think too often, a lot of the focus in medicine is on the big clinical centers, where practice is very different than it is in the community. We wanted to create an environment where this P4 medicine can experience a wide range of opportunities, in urban and rural environments.”

PeaceHealth provides access to a lot of patients and doctors, offering scientists at the Institute for Systems Biology with a lot of potential biological samples to analyze. The PeaceHealth network performs 44,000 surgeries a year, administered more than $139 million worth of charity care last year, and performed more than 4.8 million lab tests. There a lot of different ways in which people in the PeaceHealth network could contribute DNA for, say, genome sequencing or blood for protein analysis.

A lot of the details still need to be worked out on the initial pilot projects. Just as examples, Adler suggested … Next Page »

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