MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- We've reported on a Geisinger research project called MyCode, which uses a person's DNA as part of a large-scale research project.
Hospital officials announced Tuesday they're ready to use genome sequencing not just in the lab, but in a clinical setting hoping to keep more of their patients healthy, instead of treating them when they're sick.
The CEO of Geisinger Health System, Dr. David Feinberg, rolled up his sleeve for Brenda, a phlebotomist. With this blood draw, Dr. Feinberg becomes the first patient in a program that Geisinger calls the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
Dr. Feinberg says with the new clinical DNA screening program, the future is here now.
"What we're really looking at is starting with regular healthy people. I didn't come here as a patient. Do I have something genetic going on that I can know about and do something about?" Dr. Feinberg said.
Geisinger started the MyCode program about 10 years ago. MyCode uses DNA from a patient's blood to sequence genes. That information is then part of a large-scale research project.
Patients whose information indicates a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer or heart disease, for example, are notified eventually, which then also may change how their children and grandchildren are treated.
Dr. David Ledbetter explains getting that technology out of the lab and into your family doctor's office is why he came to Geisinger eight years ago.
"Today is the start of the first health system anywhere in the world offering sequencing to their patients on a routine basis for clinical purposes, rather than for a research study," Dr. Ledbetter said.
That means with one blood draw, at no cost to Geisinger patients, your genome sequencing will become part of your medical record. The results are sent to you in four to six weeks, maybe sooner.
The program is voluntary.
But Dr. Christa Martin hopes people will see the value of preventative medicine.
"People are information seekers now, especially in the last few years. People hear about genetics and about how it can help prevent disease and for the most part, when I tell people about this program, they're like, 'When can I get my blood drawn?' " said Dr. Martin.
It's a way to help keep our patients healthy instead of treating them when they're sick.
The clinical DNA screening program initially launches at Geisinger Danville and at Wilkes-Barre's Kistler Clinic, but the hope is to have it at all Geisinger locations eventually.