Tips for Talking Precision Medicine

Patient speaking about genomics

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is a way of treating disease based on a person’s genes, environmental factors, and lifestyle. A special test, like Intermountain’s Precision Genomics ICG 100, is used to look for mutations in a person’s cells that may be causing disease. In years past, most treatments were based on how the majority of people would favorably respond to a standard treatment. Now, healthcare providers have the ability to custom fit an approved treatment to a specific cellular mutation. Precision genomics has made great strides in cancer care because cancer cells often have multiple mutations, increasing the chance of finding a mutation/treatment match. Although many of the matched treatments can sustain life for a time, some of the traditional treatments may still be recommended because they offer the best chance of stopping or slowing the disease process. Now that you have some background on what precision medicine is, let’s look at 3 questions that are at the center of every healthcare conversation

Ask Me 3™ Questions for Better Health

The following 3 questions,designed by experts in the field of communication, can help people better understand their health situation and what to do to improve their condition. The 3 questions are:

1. What is my main problem?

2. What do I need to do?

3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Question #2 is a good place to start the precision medicine conversation. Explain your understanding of precision medicine and ask if it might be an option for you. There may be a reason a personalized treatment wouldn’t be right at this time and it can help to understand why. For example, some diseases or cancers have a very low likelihood of having a mutation and a matching therapy. Also, some targeted therapies may shrink a tumor but not quite have the power to eliminate all of the cancer cells. It is important to know if a therapy has the potential to eliminate a disease or just slow it down.

Tips for Talking Precision Medicine

The following talking tips can help enhance a precision medicine conversation with your healthcare provider.

  • Ask your healthcare providers if they anticipate any potential problems with a precision medicine treatment. For instance, will your insurance cover the treatment and how will the treatment affect your quality of life? Remember however, it is difficult to predict how any one person will tolerate a specific treatment.
  • Consider asking your healthcare provider to write down key points and things you need to do like additional testing or other specialists you need to see. You may want to record the conversation, but be sure to ask if the provider is comfortable being recorded.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to explain terms or tests that are unfamiliar to you. This reminds them to speak in plain language to help everyone in the room have a better understanding of what is being said.
  • If you are a visual learner, ask your healthcare provider if he/she has any pictures or diagrams to help you see what they are describing. You can also ask if there are any online or print resources to help reinforce the information.

Participating in the treatment decision-making process is an important step in moving forward into treatment. The information presented in this post can guide you in engaging in your care by starting a conversation by asking if precision medicine is right for you.


For more information on Intermountain’s Precision Medicine and Genomic programs visit