The more insight that doctors have into their patients’ bodies, the better they can do their job of maintaining and protecting people’s health. That implies that doctors, being creatures of science and reason, will want to use the latest innovations in health care once they have proven to be useful tools and therapies.
One area where science and technology is making great strides is next generation sequencing.
Writing in Urology Times, Dr. Jonathan Stein, PhD, argues that doctors should enthusiastically embrace the use of next generation sequencing. Stein earned a doctorate in molecular and cancer genetics at the University of Texas Health Science Center and holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Next generation sequencing relies on powerful computer systems that can process in parallel huge amounts of DNA fragments. This is essential for obtaining a patient’s genome in a timely and cost-effective fashion. Doctors order NGS testing to help screen their patients for a wide range of disorders, from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are the Benefits of Physicians Adopting NGS Technology?
You get a lot of valuable data for the money, noted Stein, who showed that NGS tests cost about $10 million in 2007 but cost less than $600 in 2021. This means researchers and doctors alike can feel freer to order such tests for patients.
Identifying patients’ underlying health conditions or the possibility of contracting a disease caused by a genetic mutation (because of information revealed in NGS) helps doctors keep their patients healthy.
And having a patient’s genetic sequence allows doctors to aim for customized treatment plans based on the patient’s genetic makeup, offering a more precise tool than cookie-cutter approaches to the healing arts.
What Are the Challenges of NGS Adoption?
While NGS technology has clear benefits, there are still some obstacles that have kept it from being adopted in a widespread way. One drawback is that this is a complex science. Genomics is a complex endeavor. There can be dozens of biochemical pathways involved in a disease in parts of the body including the immune system, the nervous system, or organ development.
And for doctors who have limited experience with genetic information based on rapid sequencing of patients, there is a steep learning curve that may be daunting for some of them. They may not have the time or inclination to do their homework when they are already quite busy running their practice under normal conditions.
Unfamiliarity with NGS can keep doctors from ordering such tests, preferring instead to rely on protocols and tests that they are completely comfortable with and experienced in using.
When Will Gene Sequencing Via NGS Technology Become a Normal Part of a Doctor’s Toolkit?
You have to keep up with the times, or your patients might leave you behind for a more forward-thinking healthcare provider.
After all, once doctors learned about the benefits of vaccinations, they were quick to deploy them to prevent their patients from growing ill or dying. And when engineers built the first X-ray machines and demonstrated that you could use them to peer into the human body to find broken bones and problems with organs.
It’s natural to adopt new technologies, especially when their use could help safe lives and improve the quality of life for so many people.
So, it’s easy to see why scientists like Stein have a case to make for more physicians turning to next generation sequencing technology to get better insight into what’s troubling their patients. What remains to be seen now is what percentage of doctors will feel motivated to start making use of NGS systems.