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Addressing the health needs of individual patients

In an earlier post in this space, I noted that the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is supportive of the mission of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). In fact, I noted that PCORI could do important and necessary work by devoting resources to a better understanding of the millions of Americans who have multiple chronic diseases. There is too little available research today on how to prevent and manage multiple illnesses

There is no question that PCORI’s work is important. In order, though, to generate the greatest possible benefit from comparative effectiveness research (CER), PCORI and other organizations involved in CER need to fully embrace the concept that you can’t improve population health without focusing on the health of the individual.

One of the concerns expressed by the critics of CER is that this research will be used to compress the spectrum of treatments and therapies available to the individual patient, that the focus will be on what medicines and technologies are best and most cost effective for the “average” patient. Of course, that line of thinking is bad news for those individuals who don’t fall within the definition of “average” and may find it more difficult go get public or private coverage for the treatments they need.

PFCD is cosponsoring a forum on this issue that is being hosted by the National Pharmaceutical Council. The forum, “The Myth of Average: Why Individual Patient Differences Matter,” is taking place on November 30 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Registration information can be found at www.npcnow.org/myth2012.

This is a significant event, in large part because the participants will include Dr. Joe Selby, the executive director of PCORI, and Dr. Patrick Conway, the chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is important for these two gentlemen in important health policy positions to interface with experts who will be discussing the biological and genetic differences between individuals, and how those differences should play a role in practice guidelines and coverage and reimbursement policies.

PCORI can and, we believe, will do important work. It’s essential, though, to understand that we can’t make the American population healthier without addressing the health needs of individual patients.