Both plan sponsors and plan members are expressing an interest in personalized medicine that offers a targeted approach to prescribing based on patients’ genetic makeup, according to the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

These tests are becoming more accessible and more affordable, said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell Ltd. and one of the survey’s advisory board members. “This is a good news story coming out of this year’s survey, when you think of the value in terms of improving health outcomes and maximizing the investment in drug plans.”

Read: Pharmacogenomic testing to be available in Canadian pharmacies

The survey specifically asked employees about pharmacogenomic testing, which uses DNA samples from cheek swabs to determine the body’s response to certain medications. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents reported an interest in such testing, increasing to 76 per cent among high-volume users of drug plans. The degree of interest is fairly strong, with 28 per cent of respondents saying they’re very interested, increasing to 38 per cent among those taking three or more medications.

Targeted health education also offers the potential to bring wellness programming to the next level. Some 70 per cent of plan members said they’d agree to receive personalized health-related information sent directly to them by insurance providers, based on their use of benefits. The finding is a sizeable increase over the 58 per cent of respondents who said so last year.

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Plan members’ growing readiness is “very exciting,” said David Willows, vice-president of strategic market solutions at Green Shield Canada and a member of the survey’s advisory board. “We are finding that people are less concerned about why we have this personal information and more interested about what we can do with it.”

According to the survey, plan members are interested in receiving information about how to manage their personal health conditions (65 per cent); general health information (57 per cent); information about their medications (55 per cent); and contact information for nearby health-care professionals who can help with their conditions (54 per cent).

Read: Which health benefits do employees really want?

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of employer respondents said they’d be open to a plan design that provides employees with targeted health information from benefits providers. The most interested groups of employers are large organizations (75 per cent) and unionized workplaces (72 per cent).

However, almost half (47 per cent) expressed concern about privacy issues, which speaks to the opportunity to raise awareness of plan members’ readiness for that type of information, the survey’s advisory board noted.

Read more stories from the 2017 Sanofi Canada health-care survey

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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