Precision medicine centre: “Extensive activity on several fronts”

Two years ago, the Karolinska Institutet and the Karolinska University Hospital announced that they would jointly launch the Precision Medicine Centre. Medtech Magazine called Anna Wedell, who is heading the work, to find out…

...how are you doing?

“Good! We have extensive activity on several fronts. We are not sitting on a “quick fix”, though, as we are working on long-term adjustments and must deal with major structural issues. We need a system change, which is not something you work on for a quarter, and then it’s fixed.”

In February 2021, when the Karolinska Institutet and the university hospital announced the establishment of the centre, one of the tasks was to establish a basic agreement between the two parties to facilitate collaboration. According to Anna Wedell, such an agreement exists, but it needs to be supplemented with further, more specific agreements.

“We will not build something new on the side, but we will be a force for change within the existing organisation. Implementing new things in such a complex and conventional organisation as healthcare is challenging, but we have a positive feeling, and the commitment is there, and I experience a strong will and support from the entire organisation and the management.”

So far, PMCK has, among other things, established “precision medicine forums”, where representatives participate from different parts of the chain – including hospital managers who make decisions about implementing changes.

“It is a new way of reaching out across borders, finding activities, launching long-term projects and detecting obstacles.”

When asked which problems have been identified so far, Anna Wedell says that the biggest challenge is to work in a way that “goes across” the way things are organised today.

“We operate within sluggish systems, and healthcare is already under great pressure. We can see progress, but our work started somewhat “against” the system, and so far, we have worked across borders with great difficulty. There is an awareness and willingness at all levels, but collaborating in new ways in advanced healthcare is difficult in practice.”

Until now, precision medicine has mainly been used in the field of cancer, but according to Anna Wedell, PMCK has also made progress in rare diseases.

“We have really come a long way there, and exciting discussions about infectious diseases, neurology and large parts of children’s medicine are also taking place. We are now trying to facilitate, scale up and spread precision medicine to other areas.”

What other issues are on the agenda from now on?

“Much is required in terms of education and competence provision. Even in IT, we are facing anything from incompatible IT systems to questions about how to handle large amounts of data in healthcare,” she says and continues:

“We must also make visible the value of diagnostics throughout the chain. Today, healthcare is evaluated slice by slice. If we can change that, it will also affect how healthcare is managed, which is a long-term issue at all levels – at the local hospital, the local region and nationally.”

According to Anna Wedell, new ways of collaborating with the industry are needed, for example, by facilitating clinical trials.

“Many regulatory issues must be resolved at a national level. In this matter, we are right in time with the current discussions about new forms of collaboration and increased government control of healthcare. If we find new solutions, we are happy to participate as a pilot, which is the type of overall initiative we find necessary.

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