Sanford Health’s path to bringing precision care to veterans

Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft explains the program.

Veteran smiling, background; logo, foreground

Sanford Health News writer Jacqueline Palfy sat down with Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health, on a recent afternoon to talk about bringing precision medicine to the nation’s veterans.

The genetic testing partnership between Sanford Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aimed at improving patient care and lowering costs related to adverse reactions to medications. Announced in March, it will reach up to 250,000 veterans at 125 sites by 2020.

How did this program come about?

Kelby Krabbenhoft: About a year ago, I had a conversation with Nathan Peterson, who had just returned from Afghanistan. He’s a 20-year veteran of the Air National Guard. We sat down, and we talked about Sanford Health’s relationship with David Shulkin, former secretary of the Veterans Administration who now works with us. And we had this idea of bringing customized, personalized medicine to our veterans — at no cost.

How long did it take to put the plan in motion?

Krabbenhoft: It took about a year. We knew it was time to put veterans first. They’re willing to sacrifice their lives, and we should do something about their health care.

What does the test do?

Krabbenhoft: The test is to help patients find which medications will work best for them. We plan to do this with all 250,000 veterans. And then hopefully we can prove that it’s worth it, and we can do it safely and effectively, and to expand that to the 9 million people in the Department of Defense. That would be a goal of ours — to make a difference for our veterans.

Tell me about working with the VA.

Krabbenhoft: I thought it was the right thing to do. The people who work for the VA are like the people who work for Sanford: They’re doing it to help. They’re working for good reasons. But they need the tools that organizations like Sanford get because of Mr. Denny Sanford.

Mr. Sanford is one of health care’s greatest philanthropists.

Krabbenhoft: Yes, and he gave $25 million to this. He asked me to find a match for that, and we’re working on that. And the VA has agreed to this project, which is groundbreaking. It’s historic.

Why does Sanford Health want to invest in this partnership and this program?

Krabbenhoft: With this test, you’re not going through the hit-or-miss journey of what drug will work for folks. We can predict the future of someone’s health care because we can see their genetic profile and what they’re susceptible to, and getting ahead of that, dealing with that before it ever has a chance to happen, that’s exciting.

More on how Sanford Health helps veterans

Posted In Genetics, Innovations, Veterans

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