Health+Benefits the November 2022 issue

A New Frontier in Employee Health

Q&A with Tod Klingler, PhD, Head of Innovation and Product, Genomic Life
Sponsored by Genomic Life Posted on November 1, 2022

Recent innovations in genomics have opened a new frontier for employee health benefits: genetic health screenings. Klingler dives into the potential for these health screenings, which can offer insight into genetic conditions, assess drug-gene interactions to guide medications, and provide broader information into population health trends.

Q
What benefits can genetic testing and precision medicine provide to employees? How can that also help employers' bottom line?
A

Employers can harness the power of genomics to innovate their employee benefits, improving overall population health and decreasing costs.

Genetic baselines are increasingly important in personalized prevention, accurate diagnosis, and better treatments. Improved precision via genomic testing results in cost avoidance by identifying health risks early, uncovering misdiagnoses, preventing health problems, increasing efficacy, and decreasing long-term costs.

Cancer is one of the leading drivers of healthcare costs for employers. It has a significant impact on time from work. The best way to survive cancer is to prevent it. Genomic Life offers employers a high-touch cancer support program that opens access to affordable medical-grade genomic testing, oncology navigation, and cancer support expertise and resources.

Q
What does a genetic health screen entail, and what types of things can it reveal? Is there research to suggest that employees want genetic testing as part of their benefits plan?
A

Approximately one in six people will be found to carry an important genetic mutation that increases their risk of disease. This accurate, medical-grade Genetic Health Screen identifies a predisposition to developing hereditary cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and significant additional conditions.

Research from the Olson Research Group indicated that consumers understood and were very open to the idea of genetic testing (an average of 6.3 on a 7-point scale). Ninety percent of the respondents considered the Genetic Health Screen relevant to their health. Respondents were surprised that the process is simple and highly accurate at ≥99 percent.

Q
How would offering genetic health screens be a good strategy for attracting and retaining top talent?
A

Employers provide benefits as a strategic differentiator to recruit talent. In the post-pandemic reality, the need to find new, compelling levers to attract and retain a strong workforce is a critical business priority. Genomic-based benefits complement employers’ total wellness initiatives and demonstrate care for employees and their families.

COVID-19 also made mental health a corporate imperative. The most forward-thinking companies provide robust support to address new levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. For employees dealing with a mental health condition, for example, they can take a PGx test that analyzes drug-gene interactions and efficacy. It helps uncover what medications work best in treating the condition.

Q
Is it possible to quantify the economic value a genomics program could bring to companies?
A

The cost-effectiveness of a genomics program can be estimated using published data. As a start, genomics can contribute to economic value by:

1. Identifying cancer cases in earlier stages results in increased survival and decreased treatment expenses.

2. Leveraging genomic information for advanced cancer support and individualized treatments increases survival rates and decreases treatment expenses.

3. Utilizing pharmacogenomics to prevent avoidable medical utilization (e.g., inpatient days, emergency room visits, and other outpatient visits) due to adverse drug responses.

Approximately one in six people will be found to carry an important genetic mutation that increases their risk of disease.
Tod Klingler, PhD, Head of Innovation and Product, Genomic Life
Q
What are some barriers to genetic testing from the employee and employer perspective?
A

This question is why Genomic Life exists and why our mission is to accelerate access to genomic medicine for everyone. The employee benefit breaks down barriers. Because when it comes to medicine, one size does not fit all. Treatments that help some are ineffective for others, and the same medication may cause side effects in only certain patients.

Genetic conditions are more common than previously known, and most medicine happens with limited insight into an individual’s genetic profile. Additionally, our healthcare system is fragmented, and people don’t have access to the latest innovations.

Q
With a large enough data set, genetic testing data could be de-identified and used to share general health trends about employees. Are employers or insurance companies privy to some or all of the information provided by these tests?
A

Genomic Life does not share any identifiable protected health information (PHI) nor sensitive member data—including genetic and health data—with anyone without explicit written consent from the member. We align with the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) preventing us from sharing members’ data with employers and health plans. GINA also protects all individuals from employers and health plans using their genetic information to discriminate.

Aggregated testing results that do not reveal individual information can provide new guidance on population health trends and how to match resources to address those trends.

Q
Creating a platform where genetic testing data is stored would open a new frontier of cyber risk. What efforts can companies that offer this benefit undertake to protect their employees?
A
Securing our members’ data is priority one. With our digital platform, which has earned HITRUST’s certified status for its information, security, and privacy, members will have the strongest security measures to safeguard their information.

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