HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has unveiled a new initiative which would merge genetic and clinical data in an effort to individualize and improve patient care. Leavitt's "Personalized Health Care" program would use the merged data to predict, and hopefully prevent, the onset of many diseases. Leavitt has said that this effort will be one of his top priorities for the next two years. The concept isn't as novel as it may sound--the VA is already combining EMRs with genetic information--but this is perhaps the first project which would combine such data on a national scale. The project is very much line with emerging medical trends, but could substantially raise privacy worries among those already concerned by potentially discriminatory use of genetic data by the health insurance industry.
Overall, HHS agencies like the NIH, FDA and CDC will spend $277 million on personalized healthcare efforts this year, and should up that spending to $352 million in fiscal 2008. To boost this effort, President Bush has included $15 million in funding in his 2008 budget to create a new electronic network linking together data sources across the U.S., Leavitt noted. To make sure these efforts don't compromise privacy efforts--or expose consumers to discrimination--HHS is beginning a comprehensive review of how the aggregation of this information will impact individual consumers.