Testifying before a U.S. House subcommittee on Feb. 26, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell advocated for President Obama’s new Precision Medicine Initiative and a big funding boost for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Burwell appeared before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in a hearing on the fiscal year 2016 HHS budget proposal. It includes $215 million for Precision Medicine, a cross-agency effort “to focus on developing treatments, diagnostics, and prevention strategies tailored to individual genetic characteristics,” Burwell testified.

As part of the Precision Medicine Initiative, the National Institutes of Health would receive $200 million for the launch of a national cohort of more than a million Americans that NIH wants to volunteer to share their genetic information to be used to expand current cancer genomics research and to initiate new studies on how a tumor’s DNA can inform prognosis and treatment choices for patients.

“One part of the initiative is creating a very large database of a million people through NIH, but we’ll access that through other channels so that we’re drawing from existing databases to get the information we need,” testified Burwell.

In addition to NIH’s $200 million, the Food and Drug Administration would receive $10 million to modernize the regulatory framework to aid the development and use of molecular diagnostics in precision medicine, while ONC would spend $5 million in FY16 to help develop technology and define standards and certification criteria to enable the exchange of genomic data.

The Obama administration’s 2016 budget seeks $92 million—an increase of more than $30 million beyond 2015 spending levels—for ONC. The money would be used to support accelerated improvements in health IT interoperability including Stage 3 of the meaningful use EHR program, strategic investments to support development and testing of interoperability standards, and ONC’s new draft Interoperability Roadmap.

“The Administration is working to create transparency of cost and quality information and to bring electronic health information to the point of care—enabling patients and providers to make the right decisions at the right time to improve health and care,” Burwell said.

Burwell also told lawmakers that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is “making major strides to expand and improve its provider compare websites, which empower consumers with information to make more informed healthcare decisions, encourage providers to strive for higher levels of quality, and drive overall health system improvement.”

However, a November 2014 Government Accountability Office report criticized CMS’s five healthcare transparency tools—Nursing Home Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, Home Health Compare, Hospital Compare and Physician Compare. GAO found that the tools lack relevant information on cost and provide limited information on key differences in quality of care, which hinders the ability of consumers to make meaningful distinctions among providers based on their performance.

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