HHS Releases AI Strategy
Published: January 27, 2021
Last week, HHS released its first-ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy to pave a path for how the department uses and regulates AI.
- HHS plans to employ AI to solve previously unsolvable problems and to cultivate trustworthy AI adoption across the department.
- HHS will establish an AI Council to support governance, strategy execution, and development of strategic AI priorities across the enterprise.
- HHS AI focus areas include developing an AI-ready workforce; encouraging health AI innovation and R&D; democratizing foundational AI tools and resources; and promoting ethical, trustworthy AI use and development.
- HHS named Oki Mek as its first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO).
The eight-page document describes HHS’ strategic approach to employing AI throughout the department and its agencies, as well as its planned governance model and focus areas. The plan states the department’s AI ambition is as follows:
“Together with its partners in academia, industry and government, HHS will leverage AI to solve previously unsolvable problems by continuing to lead advances in the health and wellbeing of the American people, responding to the use of AI across the health and human services ecosystem, and scaling trustworthy AI adoption across the department.”
HHS sees AI as a “critical enabler” of its work as a regulator of the health industry, purchaser of healthcare, facilitator of innovation for healthcare delivery, investor through research and grants, and promoter of health and wellbeing for the nation. HHS wants to enable and encourage AI familiarity, fluency and adoption across the enterprise. The AI strategy will help HHS uncover and apply governance, best practices, and lessons learned across operating divisions and the programs they administer.
HHS is already showing success with AI implementation. NIH has embraced AI in biomedical research, including using AI and CT scan modeling to analyze lung-related diseases such as COVID-19. Through HHS’ ReImagine Buy Smarter initiative, HHS used Machine Learning (ML) and blockchain to modernize the department's acquisition process to achieve over $1 billion in projected savings and cost avoidance over ten years. When the pandemic hit, NIH quickly pivoted from receiving invoices via mail to e-mail and using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to route it to the workforce. CDC launched a virtual triage bot for initial coronavirus screenings, and CMS swiftly deployed the CMS Employee Roll Call Bot, which visually displays personnel accountability data for senior leadership.
According to the strategy document, HHS’ strategic approach to leading HHS AI innovation will involve regulating and overseeing the use of AI in the health industry, and funding programs, grants, and research that leverage AI-based solutions to deliver outcomes. HHS also plans to collaborate with internal partners, external partners, including academia, the private sector, and state, local and tribal governments, to enhance programs and services through the potential of AI. The department also wants to facilitate public-private partnerships to identify and fill gaps and unmet needs in health and scientific areas that would benefit from government involvement.
As part of the AI strategy, HHS will establish an AI Council to support governance, strategy execution, and development of strategic AI priorities across the enterprise. AI focus areas include developing an AI-ready workforce and strengthening AI culture; encouraging health AI innovation and R&D; democratizing foundational AI tools and resources; and promoting ethical, trustworthy AI use and development.
The release of the AI strategy comes on the heels of the department naming its first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer (CAIO) the prior week. Oki Mek was named CAIO by the HHS CIO on January 15th. Mek has nearly two decades of federal IT experience and most recently served as CTO in HHS’ Acquisition Division. Mek will be central to implementing the HHS AI strategy and the principles established under the executive order “Promoting the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in the Federal Government.”
HHS sees AI as key to IT modernization efforts. Federal contractors will likely find opportunities to assist HHS in its endeavors to study, pilot and implement AI. Look for procurements and projects that could employ solutions such as RPA, ML, chatbots, intelligent automation, and neural networks.