The health care system should make sure the data being generated by medical research is better integrated and shared, develop better cures, and get information to patients sooner, according to President Barack Obama.

Obama spoke at the White House Frontiers Conference on Thursday about the need for interoperable health care software, so that patient data could be transferred between doctors easily, and incentivizing a holistic approach in the health care system.

Obama said that all cancer research should be compiled into one database so that researchers can single out specific details of certain cancers, detect risk factors earlier, and find cures faster. Allowing patients access to their own data would also empower them to make choices about their health.

“At the end of the day, there are people who count and want to enhance their lives,” Obama said.

Obama said that although cybersecurity issues have become prevalent in all sectors including health care, patient information is less likely to be subject to data breaches in an integrated system.

Obama has put an emphasis on science and technology throughout his administration by creating projects like the Precision Medicine Initiative and hosting the White House Science Fair.

“I’m a science geek,” Obama said. “I’m a nerd and I don’t make any apologies for it.”

Obama said that because of the overload of information now available to the public due to technology, there needs to be a curating function that can put data through a “truthiness test” to indicate what information is true or false.

“It’s going to be necessary. It’s going to be possible,” Obama said. “The most important curator…is the human brain.”

Obama also recognized the work already being done on self-driving cars, drones, capsules that could take humans into space, big data that can predict the likelihood of children to succeed based on the neighborhood in which they live, and technology to create clean energy.

“Innovation is in our DNA,” Obama said. “That’s consistent with this nation, who we are.”

Obama referenced the work of Benjamin Franklin, flying a kite in a thunderstorm to understand electricity. He said that it’s natural for Americans to continue that legacy through research and innovation.

“For us to use our brains, doesn’t mean we lose our heart,” Obama said.

Obama said his administration is working to encourage underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, to participate in STEM education.

“We’re going to be a better team if we’ve got the whole team,” Obama said.

Obama said the government will never run like Silicon Valley because of the more difficult challenges that the public sector chooses to take on, but he looks forward to the innovations that will be made in the next administration.

“The presidency is a relay race. We run our leg and then we hand off the baton,” Obama said. “The future is yours to create.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.