Humanwide: Bringing precision health to life

Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” More than two centuries later, this idea remains as true as ever in health care — even as our industry finds itself at the cusp of a biomedical revolution.

Thanks to scientific breakthroughs that are happening today, it is likely that in our lifetime we will have the power to cure diseases that have long afflicted humanity. And yet, on a planet that will have 10 billion people by 2050, it won’t be enough. A true revolution in health care, one that advances the human condition, will happen when we embrace prediction and prevention — at the community level — with the same enthusiasm we give to national moonshots to develop cures

(From left) Lloyd Minor, MD,dean, Stanford School of Medicine; Paul King, CEO, Packard Children's and Stanford Children's Health; and David Entwistle, CEO, Stanford Health Care.
Steve Fisch

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of all heart disease and stroke, 80% of Type 2 diabetes and 40% of all cancer can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. We have an enormous opportunity to tackle this issue, not only for the patients in our direct care, but for all of you who live in the communities we serve. More than ever, we see community health as a central part of our role, and we feel a deep responsibility to make an impact. It is what motivates us to test new approaches to health care delivery — approaches that could one day help millions of people avoid illness and enjoy lifelong health. 

At Stanford Medicine, we have embraced this effort through our vision of precision health: to predict, prevent and cure disease — precisely. Critically, in that order. In practice, it is a radically different approach to health care. 

Precision health shifts the practice of medicine away from a reactive model toward one that emphasizes proactive, holistic, team-based care that is tailored to each person. The defining feature of this model is its purpose: to engage people early, when interventions have the greatest potential to improve their long-term health and well-being. 

In 2018, Stanford Medicine took an important step in this direction with Humanwide, a comprehensive pilot project to bring precision health to life in a single community. Through this pilot study, we have demonstrated that high-touch health care, paired with the latest advances in science, technology and medicine, can achieve transformational health outcomes for patients.  

At our Stanford primary care clinic in Santa Clara, a cohort of 50 individuals from diverse socioeconomic, racial and health backgrounds enrolled in Humanwide. Over the course of a year, they received comprehensive care from a nontraditional team of clinicians, specialists and support staff that met daily to strategize on each patient case and track progress. 

Humanwide offered patients a unique tool set to personalize their care and empower them to proactively engage in their health. The tools included genetic testing and counseling to assess health risks, pharmacogenomics to tailor medications, wearables to monitor health at home, telehealth consultations, personalized wellness coaching, behavioral health counseling and health education courses. 

From this wealth of information and the thousands of patient interactions that followed, the Humanwide care team was able to correlate a wide range of factors for each patient and take precise clinical actions to lead them toward better health. 

While the study reveals both promise and progress, the true impact of Humanwide is best told through the moving stories of patients and families that unfolded during the pilot, which we were privileged to capture in a new documentary film.

Humanwide represents the beginning of a journey. Through the pilot study, we have learned what it takes to implement precision health in a clinical setting. We hope to use these insights as a blueprint, showing how health care that emphasizes prevention and early intervention can be scaled across communities to help people live the healthiest lives possible.