White House PMI Summit Outlines ‘Bold Initiative’

President Barack Obama participates in PMI
summit panel Feb. 25 at the White House.
President Barack Obama participates in PMI summit panel Feb. 25 at the White House.

President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), first unveiled at his January 2015 State of the Union address, took another major step forward on Feb. 25 at the White House PMI Summit. Held in the White House’s south court auditorium and webcast live, the event included the announcement of initial steps based on recommendations offered just 5 months ago by a PMI working group.

“This will be a bold initiative unlike any other,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, adding that, in his 25 years at NIH, no initiative has ever been faster to take shape. “We’re all different…the one-sizefits-all approach [to health care] is far from optimal.” PMI will take into account the contributions of genes, environment and lifestyle in an “unprecedented effort,” he said.

Collins said it would take 3-4 years to assemble a study cohort of more than 1 million individuals, who scientists hope to follow for years. The effort is not focused on any specific disease, he said, nor is PMI “just about illness—it’s also about health.” Important clues to disease prevention are expected to emerge from the data.

Three factors distinguish PMI from other large-cohort studies of the past, Collins said. Participants will be “true partners,” not patients; the cohort will be broadly representative of the nation’s population; and data-sharing is to be swift to both participants and scientists.

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Health Care IT May Need a Reboot, Wachter Says

Dr. Robert Wachter
Dr. Robert Wachter

In today’s hightech world, doctors increasingly have their heads buried in their computers. While they’re feverishly typing in patient data, digitally prescribing medicines and reviewing electronic health records, personal relationships are deteriorating. Digitized health care has left many doctors and their patients literally not seeing eye to eye.

Dr. Robert Wachter, chief of the division of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is decidedly not a Luddite. He blogs, tweets and lauds the potential for technology to improve patient care. In fact, “I would not today go to a hospital that didn’t have a good computer system,” said Wachter, also professor and interim chair of UCSF’s department of medicine. “There’s no question in my mind that our [world] is safer than before we computerized. But there are unanticipated consequences.”

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