AFCEA Bethesda Health IT Day Round Up

Published: January 18, 2018


Tuesday’s event brought much talk of interoperability, security, modernization and exploiting data to improve health.

AFCEA Bethesda held its largest Federal Health IT Day to date on Tuesday, January 16th, with nearly 1,000 industry and government attendees, clearly showing the high level of interest in opportunities to employ technology to better the nation’s health.

Speakers and panelists hailed from a variety of organizations such as DHA, VA, VHA, HHS, CMS, NIH, ONC and FDA, with job responsibilities in IT, acquisition, health care, medical research, policy and cybersecurity. Sessions included What the Hack? Hands Off our Health Data, Preventative Health Care Using Data Analytics, Use of IoT and Blockchain in Federal Agencies, and Modernizing Veteran Health Care Through IT. Keynote addresses were delivered by VA CIO, Scott Blackburn; VHA Executive in Charge, Dr. Carolyn Clancy; HHS CIO, Beth Killoran; DHA Deputy Director, Guy Kiyokawa; and National Coordinator for HIT, Dr. Don Rucker.

Dr. Clancy, VHA’s Executive in Charge, described communication and information as the currency for health care. “Information is the wiring and plumbing of health care,” stated Clancy during her fireside chat with VA’s CIO Scott Blackburn and radio show host of “Government Matters,” Francis Rose. Blackburn said that when he began work at VA, he was struck by the number of silos. His team has started using more of a customer service mentality.  “Historically, the VA level of customer service has not been where it needs to be.” 

The cybersecurity panel emphasized the need to have cybersecurity integrated into the process, “baked in”, not bolted on to a system at the end. Another challenge is that people still have a disparate view of cybersecurity.  “We can’t look at it separately,” said Servio Medina who is involved in DHA cybersecurity policy. Additionally, medical devices and IoT add more complexity to cybersecurity needs and challenges in the health care environment, stated Kevin Robins, Director Network Security at VA.

During one of the luncheon keynote sessions, HHS CIO, Beth Killoran, said that “HHS has a horizon that is not data-centric, but citizen-centric.” HHS touches every citizen from birth to death. But right now, citizens are not getting the information specific to them or their needs.  They have to pull the data and it’s not individualized or customized.  HHS wants to proactively provide individualized services and data with “harmonious integration of health data with IT.” 

Dr. Don Rucker, National Coordinator of Health IT, spoke about the “vexing problem of interoperability” and ONC’s work to promote interoperability as mandated in the 21st Century Cures Act.

The day closed with a panel discussion of trends in federal health IT acquisition which included panelists’ desire to infuse innovation at the contracting office level, use GWACs where possible, take advantage of Broad Agency Announcements, and educate procurement staff on available contracting tools and methods such as the Health IT SIN.