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HHS Reports on Personalized Health Care

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  • November 1, 2008
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Someday, patient medical care will be differentiated based on individual biology. Physicians will prescribe medicine according to patient’s metabolism and other factors that cause certain prescription medication to work well with some, but not others. Someday may be sooner than you think.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt has re-released his report “Personalized Health Care: Pioneers, Partnerships, Progress,” from his initiative on personalized health care. The report, first released in 2007, examines the potential for new findings in genetics and other molecular-level medicine to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Included in the report is information from 10 institutions where personalized health care techniques are used and seven commissioned papers examining the opportunities and challenges for personalized health care from different stakeholders’ perspectives in the health care sector.
The belief is that genetic and molecular medicine will help physicians detect diseases before symptoms appear and enable treatments to delay or preempt the disease—thus avoiding costly late-stage treatments. It is also thought that if individuals were aware of their particular predisposition to disease, they would take more effective disease-prevention steps.
Secretary Leavitt says in the report that the potential for personalized health care techniques to improve health and increase value in health care make personalized health care a factor that should be targeted as part of any plan to reform the nation’s health care system.
HHS says it seeks to advance this initiative through two guiding principles:

  • Provide federal leadership supporting research addressing individual aspects of disease and disease prevention with the ultimate goal of shaping preventive and diagnostic care to match each person’s unique genetic characteristics.
  • Create a “network of networks” to aggregate anonymous health care data to help researchers establish patterns and identify genetic “definitions” to existing diseases.

You can learn more about the goals of Secretary Leavitt’s initiative on personalized health care on the HHS Personalized Health Care Web site.

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No Responses to “HHS Reports on Personalized Health Care”

  1. DAMDUL says:

    hope this works out and someday we might have a disease free world.

  2. Diana Hoghsead says:

    While in theory it sounds great, how many people do we have who still smoke even though they know that they are putting themselves at risk? In those states where public restaurants, etc have no smoking laws (THANK YOU), smokers believe they are being picked on even though the dangers of their second hand smoke has been demonstrated to be worse for others than the actual smokers.
    And how many people are still arrested each year for DUIs, even though the continuous use of alcohol have been proven to wreak havoc on our bodies? as well as the risk of injury to others who may be on the road?
    Knowing that you may be predisposed to a disease, not such a good thng. Having lived the last 2 years with a fear that cancer may return, even though the genetic testing shows none of the known cancer markers. So you wonder, does that mean that I am not genetically predisposed to cancer or does it mean they just heven’t discovered that pathway yet….and so every 6 months you return for more surveillance never knowing what the results will be, living 6 months at a time. While I have been lucky, and so far so good, it has drastically changed my life and the way I live it.
    If we all lived our lives in a healthy manner, we would be more likely to arrest many disease processes. If we were to promote wellness, reduce stress and get more sleep many of the disease processes such as cancer could be fought off by our own immune systems. Many scrrening tests are not done without symptoms present, because insurance or Medicare won’t pay for them. The cost in the long run is much greater than the cost of the test. Insurance companies won’t pay for many tests when there is a family history of a disease process (known predisposition) in an asymptomatic patient- so it is denied not medically necessary unless they find proof that there is presence of the disease.
    Personlized healthcare is a good thing, but changing people’s behaviors will be an even bigger challenge. Knowing that theee likelihood that you will be affected by a disesase in the future can be quite an emotional challenge as well. Not sure how this will all turn out, but it sounds good on paper?

  3. Joanne Kent says:

    Ms. Hogsheads points are well taken but here’s an additional perspective: personaized health care based on an individual’s DNA or genetic predisposition will inevitably have a dark side. In addition to the concern with bad health habits we might be wiser to be concerned with individual rights and privacy. If you think people won’t be excluded from health care coverage based on the “possibility” that they may be prone to certain diseases or addictions, then that’s just naive. I wouldn’t hazard a guess here about how this knowledge would effect employment or advancement or other areas of life. Without accompanying legislation to protect the individual, when this information becomes available, and it will– we might have more to worry about than we expected.

  4. Sherry Steigerwald says:

    I agree with Ms Kent. Evgentually should such testing and personalized care be given through genetic markers or DNA, there is more to lose than to gain. Sure the word “persoalized” sounds terrific, but in reality, the Gov. and anyone else could deny much needed benefits due to predisposition disqualifications. What’s next…to penalize people based on their grandmother’s cancer or grandfather’s heart-attack regarding coverage. The risk pool already rejects too many people from receiving coverage without DNA and genetic coding markers sealing the deal and dooming even more from getting insurance coverage.