L.S. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation

The L.S. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation (SIHI) will serve Montana as a statewide hub for health education, research, and outreach to improve access to healthcare for all Montanans, particularly those living in rural and tribal communities.

SIHI consists of three components: rural health outreach, opportunities for interprofessional telehealth education, and implementation of precision medicine innovations. Each objective provides the potential for integration of direct service for patients, experiential learning opportunities for students, technology-enabled educational opportunities, research opportunities in precision medicine, and support for healthcare professionals and institutions across Montana. SIHI builds upon the success of existing programs in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy, namely ImProving Health Among Rural Montanans (IPHARM), the IPHARM Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Center, and the Precision Medicine Project (PMP). The first program to be launched through SIHI is a pharmacogenetic consulting service deployed statewide utilizing telehealth services.

Pharmacogenetics helps prescribers choose the right medication at the right dose for their patients. In traditional prescribing (top of photo to left) each person receives a normal dose of a medication. With pharmacogenetic testing (bottom of photo to left) prescribers know if a patient requires a normal dose, twice the dose, half the dose, or an alternative medication altogether.

Pharmacogenetic Consultations:

SIHI is poised to be the first in the US to implement pharmacogenetic testing in rural and tribal populations and will provide the expertise and infrastructure to support widespread implementation for health systems and healthcare providers across the state of Montana.

Pharmacogenetics is the process of analyzing how the genetic makeup of an individual affects their response to medications. This technology is a model of cutting-edge innovation in health care called precision medicine. Precision medicine uses patient-specific information such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle to tailor disease diagnosis and treatment.

With >99% of patients carrying information in their genes that can be used to tailor medications, pharmacogenetic testing provides potential benefits for both patients and healthcare systems.

For Patients:

  • Better health management
  • Increased quality-adjusted life-years
  • Lower medication costs
  • Reassurance that medications are tailored to their genetics

For Healthcare Systems:

  • Cost savings for health plans in both inpatient and outpatient settings across many therapeutics areas
  • Reduced cost of medications, physician visits, adverse events, and hospitalizations with savings sufficient to offset the cost of the test after only 1-3 years
  • Increasing health insurance reimbursement for pharmacogenetic testing


Erica Woodahl, Director
Professor, UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy

Hayley Blackburn
Assistant Professor, UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy