What Is Personalized Medicine? ‘Data Detective’ Explains

Researcher provides insights into the field of study through her window of expertise: data analysis

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with thousands of tiny pieces spread across a table. The puzzle’s completion promises insights into better personalized patient care, but the pieces are from different puzzle-makers – their sides not fully matching up at first glance.

That’s the challenge Laura Wiley, PhD, MS, faces in her personalized medicine research.

“Our goal is to actually generate new knowledge about how best to care for patients,” said Wiley, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “But healthcare in the United States is really fragmented. There’s a ton of patients who don’t have health insurance, that don’t have equitable access to care, and so they’re underrepresented, or we only see small snapshots of them at a point in time,” Wiley said.

“And so part of my job, and part of the methods development work that I do, is trying to figure out: How do we actually use all this fragmented care?” said Wiley, who also has a secondary appointment in the Department of Biostatistics & Informatics in the Colorado School of Public Health and is a principal investigator in the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine.

In the following Q&A, Wiley explains what personalized medicine is, how she approaches using electronic health records to help supplement ongoing patient care and health sciences research, and what this research means for patients.

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