The Genetic Dilemma for HR

by Michael Haberman on January 23, 2008 · 0 comments


I read an article on Scientific American about genome based medical decisions that was rather interesting. It described how we are getting to the point in the medical field about personalized drug regimens based upon the patients genetic make-up. Research has found that not everyone responds the same way to a particular drug even though they may have the “same” disease. Treatment can vary, for example with high blood pressure, depending on the individual’s genetic make up. The way doctors discover the proper drug to treat something is through trial-and-error (ever watch House?). Well this is an expensive way to treat someone and certainly raises the cost of medical care delivery. It would be less expensive, more effective and quicker if the patient’s genome map was known so that the proper course of treatment could be selected right away.

Here however is the dilemma this puts HR in. There is already pressure to make sure that genetic information is not being used in employment decisions, which is not really that big of an issue because most of us don’t really know the genetic make-up of our employees. However, if the medical field moves to using this information for treatment purposes HR will potentially have access to this information despite the best efforts of HIPAA and the ADA. So you would think it is in the best interest and safety of the company not to be exposed to this information. However, with the tremendous pressure on HR to lower healthcare costs, to hold the line on the cost of insurance coverage companies provide to employees, it would make sense to encourage the use of this information because it is less expensive, more effective and quicker.

So where do we go with this? I think we are going to see increasing regulation, an increase in necessary safeguards, and an ever increasing burden on HR to insure privacy of this information. What is your take.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kris January 23, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Mike –

Good angle on a big problem. I always think of DNA and genetics as the next layer of issues. The issue that’s burning in my head today is the whole wellness thing. If folks don’t take care of their bodies, should they pay more for health insurance? For things they can control, a lot of people say yes…

Then you get into what they can’t control – genetics, cholest., etc…. all in the area you describe.

It’s a mess….

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