HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt bolstered his call for standardized health information technology, saying it is key to a movement of "customized" healthcare where physicians gain a better understanding of medical practices, including "what works, why it works and who it works for."
In the first of what is expected to be many reports, Leavitt unveiled a road map that would parlay current health initiatives, like the use of IT and evidence-based practices, into a workable system where scientists and physicians could tailor the care they give to an individual based on that person's genetic makeup and other factors.
In a speech delivered at the 21st Century Medicine conference in Washington, the secretary outlined a vision of care that would one day allow medical professionals to predict a person's susceptibility to disease, detect disease onset at the earliest moments, pre-empt the progression of the disease and target medicines and dosages more precisely and safely to each patient. "The potential is obviously huge," Leavitt said.
But Leavitt also cautioned that such personal information would need to be protected and secure, saying that the federal government is charged with providing a legal framework to ensure that genetic information would not be misused to preclude people from health insurance coverage, employment and other activities.
Earlier this year, Leavitt made the development of a more personalized healthcare system an agency wide priority. The report, Personalized Health Care: Opportunities, Pathways, Resources, looks at the preliminary challenges that scientists face when they translate their growing knowledge of the human genome into the everyday practice of medicine.