This year’s State of the Union address included little explicit discussion of health IT, but did highlight two areas that could have significant implications for health IT: the President announced a new “Precision Medicine Initiative” and also urged Congress to pass legislation to combat cyber attacks and prevent identity theft.

While the address was scant on detail, the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative appears intended to foster the development and delivery of personalized treatments for illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.  In a blog post late Wednesday afternoon, the White House noted that precision medicine “takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles, making it possible to design highly effective, targeted treatments for cancer and other diseases.”  Echoing the President’s speech, the post cited a new treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF) that may dramatically extend longevity for those CF patients carrying a rare genetic mutation.  Similarly, precision medicine may allow physicians to optimize treatments for cancer and other illnesses based on a patient’s genetic traits.  Health information technology may be key in understanding and applying factors that can be used to tailor such treatments.

The President also called on Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation to guard against cyber attacks and protect privacy.  The President began to release details of the proposal last week; the proposed legislation would increase information sharing both within the private sector and between government and the private sector; expand criminal penalties and law enforcement authority related to cyber attacks and identity theft; and impose a single, federal data breach reporting standard.  Cybersecurity has become an increasing concern for health care providers though stakeholders appear divided over the need for additional legislation.