Initiative Links Genetic Data With EHRs To Help Uncover Disease Clues
Kaiser Permanente researchers are conducting a large-scale research effort that links patients' genetic data with their electronic health records to investigate possible causes of disease, NPR's "Shots" reports.
For the project, researchers obtained 100,000 saliva samples mailed in by members of Kaiser's health plan in Northern California.
NIH provided $25 million in grant funding for the initiative, allowing Kaiser to team up with genetic analysis company Affymetrix to extract genetic information from the saliva samples in 15 months.
Researchers then linked each participant's genetic information with their EHR in Kaiser's system. The EHRs contain detailed information, including individuals':
- Prescriptions; and
- Medical test results.
Researchers also linked the genetic and EHR data with information that study participants provided when they mailed in their saliva samples, including their:
- Smoking and drinking habits;
- Body mass measurements; and
- Geographic information, which could be used to measure their exposure to air- or water-borne chemicals. Â
Researchers said they hope the project will reveal how genes, health habits and environmental factors could affect an individual's risk for conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The initiative already has contributed to new studies on cholesterol and telomeres.
Elizabeth Blackburn -- a professor at the UC-San Francisco, which is a partner in the Kaiser initiative -- said that the project's combination of genetic and EHR data makes it a powerful research tool. "It's just this playground of incredibly rich data," she said, adding, "We're just scratching the surface" (Hamilton, "Shots," NPR, 11/19).ÂThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.