Cerner Corporation, a health care technology company based in Kansas City, Mo, has recently begun a DNA tracking project that could lead to early detection of various diseases. So far, 82 Cerner employees have volunteered themselves for this “pilot project,” which involves giving the company access to their chromosomal patterns. This is done by submitting saliva samples to an independent company, 23andMe, which analyzes the results and transfers them to Cerner employers.
The pilot project serves two separate purposes: to inform employees about risk factors in their genetic code and to pave a way toward future research. After receiving the results, a personalized folder is created for the workers with detailed records of their health information. In addition, each employee involved in the project meets with a diet or health coach to find ways to reduce potential risk factors in their genome, such as heart disease or obesity.
Obtaining access to this information also paves a route for Cerner to become a greater entity in the healthcare industry, as it plans on someday offering these same services to clients. As a company founded on “[providing] computerized and ultimately shareable health care data,” Cerner sees a great amount of potential in genome mapping for early detection, which puts “the person at the center of health care.” This service would set the company apart from its competitors and would allow it to branch out towards becoming a major health care provider.
For this study, Cerner recruited employees who had already planned on submitting samples to the independent company. Otherwise, the pilot project would have broken the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was passed in 2009 to forbid companies from soliciting genetic testing results. Currently, a complete DNA test by 23andMe costs 199 dollars.