Published: May 06, 2019

HHSHealth CareHealth Information TechnologyInformation TechnologyInnovationMedical & Scientific EquipmentVA

The ACT-IAC Second Annual Health Innovation Conference included members of both the private and public sectors in an effort to highlight up and coming technologies and promote innovation within the health technology space. The two main focus areas of the conference were Emerging Technology in Health and Public Health Initiatives. A recurring theme throughout the conference that all participating groups agreed on was the idea of user-centricity. Identified as a common goal, was how to translate innovation into benefits for the patient, while the goal of innovation should be around making healthcare affordable and accessible to patients.

The Industry Innovation Panel covered initiatives that are being developed and how the federal government in conjunction with private industry is working to accelerate these solutions. Senior VP Global Government Solutions at Salesforce, Casey Coleman highlighted the importance of this relationship, stating how IT and Business must go hand in hand in order to orient the systems and data that are already in place to the patient. The theme of user centricity and returning value to patients was touched on at other points during the conference as well. Deputy Chief Health Officer and Lead Population Health Officer at IBM, William Kassler echoed this idea, stating that Clinicians need to be at the forefront of healthcare as they are most in tune with patients and that 21st century medicine is so complex that the only way to realize patient needs is through business acumen and ensuring that data is obtained in real time to provide immediate value for patients.

Another issue identified by Principal Solution Consultant at Oracle, Alexandra Ehrlich was that the uncertainty among customers and medical professionals is due to information silos. This uncertainty delays the speed to value in the services that professionals can provide. As technology develops, the accessibility of data and information will be critical to maximizing efficiency. The issue of accessibility is present even in the procurement cycle where the acquisition process often times determines many aspects of the resulting advancements.

Agencies such as HHS are already taking steps to address this occurrence by utilizing Other Transaction Authority (OTA) style procurements as they provide greater flexibility and accessibility to provide solutions to the government that might not otherwise be possible in a standard acquisition. According to Managing Director of Federal Industry Ecosystem at Microsoft, Greg Bateman, OTAs have been a major vehicle for innovation in HHS.

Chief Information Officer of Palantir, Arvind KC also presented the audience with his viewpoint on the healthcare industry, stating that instead of “health”care, we currently employ “sick”care in which people pay models and providers only when they are sick or unwell but not when healthy and unless we address this, we will only be innovating a bad strategy. He emphasized in most instances, what we need is problem identification rather than solution identification.

Also present were industry innovators and entrepreneurs who shared their experience and innovations with the conference. One such individual was Open Innovation Manager at KidneyX, Sandeep Patel. KidneyX is a joint effort between the Department of Health and Human Services and private industry to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. The issue that Mr. Patel spoke on was the high burden and cost of dialysis treatment. In the current system, the annual cost for dialysis treatment is roughly $34 Billion, same amount of funding that NIH receives. He explained that as medical devices are not on the radar of pharma investors, the high cost hasn’t received much attention. KidneyX has developed a healthcare infrastructure for this space by creating clearer pathways to treatment through regulatory and payment processes identified through their prize competitions. KidneyX offers funding opportunities through a series of competitions which present an issue or problem that participants must address, allowing the organization to solicit solutions from many different fields and backgrounds.

Similarly, Co-Founder of CaryRx, Kevin Lance touched on the CaryRx firm; a tech-infused pharmacy delivering prescriptions on-demand in the D.C Metro area. CaryRx is an example of how business acumen and Information Technology can be used in tandem to return value to the patient. The model essentially eliminates the need for patients to travel to a physical location to obtain their prescriptions. Patients can interface with their doctors and pharmacists virtually, confirm their orders, and through a partnership with the delivery firm Postmates, have their prescription delivered directly to them.

Director of the Office of Technology for CMS, Rajiv Uppal provided a look into how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) is adopting innovative solutions and the challenges faced by the agency. He stated that CMS has moved away from traditional implementations of Information Technology to realize burden reductions and streamline regulations. In line with the main theme of the conference, Mr. Uppal stated that CMS is in the process of becoming more customer focused and utilizing a user-centric design. The forward thinking approach can be seen in the adoption of Agile Methodologies among many departments within CMS. The agency wants to utilize Information Technology and a more effective government framework to promote good engineering architecture, higher levels of security, and a deployment to the cloud. Additionally, Mr. Uppal stated that CMS has an issue with “shadow” systems due to the gate review system of implementation in which it is unclear where a system originated and that this issue can be alleviated through better governance.

The Government Innovation panel provided updates on planned technological advancements within certain agencies and the challenges those agencies are facing as well as what industry can do to further support their mission. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Services Policy, Terry Adirim, stated that an important component for agencies to understand when undergoing enterprise wide modernization is change management. He mentioned that the Department of Veterans Affairs has faced this challenge and had lessons learned when it comes to systems modernization. Other members of the panel also emphasized the importance of change management in large scale modernization efforts. Portfolio Lead for Project Transition and VA Integration at the VA Center for Innovation, Drew Myklegard referenced the large amount of systems and applications that potentially have to be rebuilt as an obstacle in enterprise cloud migration.

The conference provided a snapshot of the Health Innovation space and highlighted success stories as proof points of an innovation strategy that emphasizes a hand in hand approach of information technology and business acumen. The Annual Health Innovation conference provides a way to periodically check in on how these subjects mature in the imminent future and monitor the progress being made by this public-private partnership.