The dawn of precision medicine has begun, ONC says

Agency says pilots at Harvard and Intermountain, as well as work with NIH and FDA, are already advancing the goal of accelerating scientific discovery for personalized treatment plans.
By Tom Sullivan
11:15 AM
The dawn of precision medicine has begun, ONC says

While the concept was thrust into the spotlight when then President Barack Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative during his 2015 State of the Union address – the Office of the National Coordinator this week said American healthcare is at the dawn of a new age.

“The Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) will usher in an era of individualized healthcare,” ONC chief scientist Teresa Zayas Caban and ONC health scientist administrator Kevin Chaney said.

[Also: HL7 moves FHIR closer to interoperability for precision medicine]

The convergence of federal funding under the 21st Century Cures Act, which allocates money for the National Institutes of Health to expand PMI, and work that ONC is undertaking with NIH, FDA, HHS Office for Civil Rights and Veterans Affairs, will drive safe and secure health information exchange to advance precision medicine initiatives, Caban and Chaney wrote in a HealthIT Buzz blog post.

ONC officials pointed to programs gaining momentum during the last year — Sync for Science (S4S), S4S Privacy and Security, and Sync for Genes as well as the All of Us Research program striving to include 1 million patients — as specific examples already advancing PMI. The Sync for Science pilot is already underway at Harvard Medical School, for instance, where members of Harvard’s biomedical informatics department are working with EHR vendors Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, drchrono, Epic, and McKesson to implement FHIR-based workflows for connecting research apps to the back-end electronic health records platforms.

[Also: Where does your organization stand with precision medicine? Take our survey]

Health systems including Intermountain Healthcare and Vanderbilt University, as well as the National Marrow Donor Program, are among the institutions conducting pilots of Sync for Genes. Also built on the FHIR specification, in this case FHIR’s clinical genomics capabilities, the pilots aim to make genomic data sharing consistent across organizations in a manner usable at the point of care and, ultimately, to create open source implementation guidance.

Whereas the Harvard pilot kicked off in late March of 2016, the Sync for Genes began in January of 2017.

“PMI will advance the nation’s ability to accelerate scientific discovery and improve clinical care through an innovative approach that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles,” Caban and Chaney wrote.

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