Personalised medicine is now at the centre of most, if not all, aspects of patient care. It is not limited to rare diseases or cancer, but spans all medical specialties. This exciting new way of treating patients is, however, based on specific concepts or biological pathways in a field which is continuously moving.

This means that all healthcare professionals (HCPs) in close contact with patients or their families need to possess a solid knowledge of the current aspects of personalised medicine and its latest breakthroughs, in order to better understand patients’ concerns.

The Brussels-based European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) is firmly of the belief that health-care professionals cannot be expected to adapt to new ways of approaching patients and coping with new technology unless they are suitably trained.

These HCPs are being asked to move beyond traditional reactive medicine towards proactive healthcare management, employing screening, early treatment, and prevention, and to classify and treat diseases in a new way, interpreting information from across sources that blur the traditional boundaries of individual specialties.  

Professionals will need to be confident of the science behind targeted therapies, including greater understanding of the immune system and molecular medicine, and knowledge of the mechanisms of action and interaction of targeted therapies, as well as common adverse events.

A recent EAPM survey flagged up that lack of training and knowledge is one of the biggest barriers facing the full integration of personalised medicine today, and the Alliance believes it is vital to develop training for professionals whose disciplines are essential to the successful development of personalised medicine. This in order to promote the shared understanding and collaborative development of necessary tools.

To this end, employers, professional organisations, certification entities, regulatory agencies, and others will have to be involved in effecting the necessary changes.

Curricula should be transparent, and transferable between countries. This should be true for healthcare professionals, but also – if the necessary interdisciplinary approach is to be achieved – for other professions whose contributions and collaboration will be increasingly necessary as personalised medicine develops.

Front-line HCPs’ communication skills with patients will also need to be developed. It is equally important to develop training for the many other professionals whose disciplines are essential to the successful development of personalised medicine – in bio-informatics, statistics, mathematical modelling, and so on – to promote the shared understanding and collaborative development of necessary tools.

To this end, the Alliance will run its second Summer School in July 2017 aimed at bringing young professionals (aged 28-40) and other stakeholders up to speed with doctor-patient communication skills, the implementation of the Luxembourg Council Conclusions on personalised medicine, and more. The Summer School also aims to support the endeavours of EAPM to set up a Continuous Educational Programme on personalised medicine.

The training and awareness raising will consist of plenary sessions followed by time spent in small groups to add focus in respect of several defined topics over the course of four days.

Tutors (the faculty) will be chosen from medical academic, clinical and research specialties, and patient organisations.

About the Summer School
- Scientific topics

Examples of current and future personalised medicine approaches will be described and explained. These have been chosen to cover the majority of specialties, both on a clinical and biological side.

- Education strategy overview

EAPM has already invited the European Commission to focus funds to stimulate an Education and Training Programme for HCPs in the context of personalised medicine, whereby infrastructures, curriculum development, management, governance and privacy are put to work.

EAPM strongly believes that this will spearhead better diagnosis and treatment for patients across the EU.

When personalised medicine delivers on its promise to transform medicine as we know it, the prac-titioners of medicine, HCPs, must be ready to deliver personalised medicine to their patients.

None of the advances in personalised medicine will benefit patients if they are not applied or not ap-plied correctly. HCPs must be aware of these fundamental and rapid changes in medicine.

Of course, this will be different for different HCPs and may very likely cause a shift in the mix of skills and competences that are required for the proper execution of a discipline.

Some HCPs, lab technicians for example, will need a thorough training in novel diagnostic approa-ches while other HCPs, certain medical specialists for instance, must know what tests are availa-ble, understand when a patient is eligible for such a test, and be able to interpret the data.

At the same time, HCPs must be capable of navigating the ethical, legal and social issues that, for instance, surround the use of genetic testing.

On top of all this, HCPs must be able to adapt the way in which they attain knowledge and skills to accommodate the rapid advancement in science, which, in turn, impacts exponentially on the avai-lability of diagnostic tools and tests and treatment options.

Patients will miss out on the benefit of this valuable knowledge if HCPs do not have the skills to iden-tify, translate and utilise this knowledge to diagnose and treat their patients.

EAPM’s summer school is designed to help kick-start the necessary processes.