What is precision health?

Precision health is a powerful approach that uses data science to help prevent disease and accurately predict, diagnose and treat individual patients as is best for them. Its practitioners employ data – information about patients – and analytics to provide more exact and effective health plans. Precision health is also a major step forward for investigators who study the causes of diseases, including aspects both inherent to the person and subject to environmental influences. As practiced at UCI, it’s also patient-centric, empowering individuals and communities to control and use their own data.

What is UCI’s Institute for Precision Health?

IPH consolidates all of UCI – our health sciences schools, centers and institutes; our healthcare system; and the deep subject matter expertise that exists in our other schools, including computer science, engineering, biological sciences, business and law – in the application of data science, machine learning-artificial intelligence, genomics-multiomics and public health measures to individualized healthcare. It fosters a revolutionary mindset that erases silos in an integrative approach that leverages the collection, curation and analysis of data to deliver the most effective health and wellness strategy for each person. And in doing so, the institute confronts the linked challenges of health inequity and the high cost of care.

How did UCI’s IPH come to be?

IPH had long been the vision of UCI leaders, including Chancellor Howard Gillman. COVID-19 hastened the launch by serving as a catalyst for combining efforts across the university to optimally confront the pandemic. In 2020, the elements of IPH coalesced as UCI clinicians, biomedical and computer scientists, and public health experts joined forces to create an AI-driven tool to assess the critical care needs of COVID-19 patients. This app-based tool, the COVID Vulnerability Index, demonstrated that a data-driven approach coupled with world-class clinical therapeutics could help yield the best outcomes for individuals.

Where is IPH located?

Like most teams during the pandemic, IPH is now operating virtually, but our vision includes a brick-and-mortar location on the UCI campus and, of course, a robust digital presence. IPH will serve as a hub for innovation, offering space, molecular tools, computational expertise and platforms for clinicians, researchers, community members and industry partners to collaborate on pushing the boundaries of discovery and practice. Through the process, all will gain valuable skills to advance patient-centric, data-directed care now and – via training the next generation of researchers and providers – far into the future. More information will be forthcoming.

Who is involved in IPH?

We have nationally recognized physicians, nurses, pharmacists, public health experts and other healthcare practitioners in leadership positions. We also have in key roles some of the nation’s finest minds in computer science, healthcare data generation and analytics, and machine learning-artificial intelligence. Our external collaborators include industry leaders such as Syntropy and MITRE and community partners including Children’s Hospital of Orange County and the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. Additionally, UCI is part of the University of California system, with its 10 campuses and six health centers. This gives us tremendous talent and span to leverage UCI’s capabilities and commitment as a fair broker for health data, placing the individual patient first.

IPH is spearheaded by Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, FAAP, UCI vice chancellor for health affairs. He brings more than 30 years of experience in health sciences research, medical education and higher education administration, which includes positions at Yale University, the University of Chicago and Brandeis University. The IPH co-directors are Tom Andriola, UCI vice chancellor for information, technology and data, who, before joining the university, was a global healthcare technology leader; and Leslie Thompson, PhD, UCI Donald Bren Professor of psychiatry & human behavior and neurobiology & behavior, a nationally recognized researcher utilizing precision health approaches to understand neurodegenerative diseases.

Why is IPH important?

Our mission is to advance society by fostering health. Of course, we will improve the lives of those in Orange County and those referred to us from around the world. But we will also impact the state, the nation and the world by sharing our capabilities and victories. Goldstein calls the Institute for Precision Health “the most important step that we will take in this generation to improve health and well-being.”

UCI is creating a future in which diagnosis, treatment and health maintenance are based on an individual’s genetic makeup, gut microbiomes, diet, demographics, environment and data collected by the patient. We will champion this strategy because the new approach reorganizes how healthcare works, putting the patient at the center and in control.

An important aspect of IPH is that this new model works for everyone, not just the wealthy or those with private health insurance. We call this “deployable health equity,” because it provides practical solutions to redress health inequities through access to high-quality prevention and healthcare services.

This approach makes it easy to improve operational efficiency to decrease medical expenses, to judge if the cost of a treatment is validated by its utility to patients, and to permit large-scale evaluation of medications and devices after they come to market to confirm their effectiveness.

IPH is leading a healthcare revolution to empower patients, decrease costs, confront health inequities, and impartially judge the effectiveness of medications and devices.