HHS tells startups: Let's work together
CHICAGO—Speaking to a group of startup leaders, HHS officials encouraged developers to collaborate with the agency on their innovations .
HHS' priorities include improving drug pricing transparency, driving value-based care, reducing opioid misuse, reforming insurance, cutting regulations, and better coordinating care, HHS associate deputy secretary William Brady said.
The agency is also focused on newer technologies, like AI. Despite the agency's insistence on deregulation, Brady said at least some regulation is necessary when it comes to AI. "There's a balance to make sure it's executed safety," he told Modern Healthcare.
He and other officials from the CMS, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and the National Institutes of Health invited startup developers to actively work with government to help meet its goals.
But startups often avoid government, said Ed Simcox, HHS deputy chief technology officer, whose boss, Bruce Greenstein, will leave his post on June 1 for the private sector. That's because federal priorities can be ambiguous and the processes byzantine. It's also tough to figure out whom to talk to.
"We're hoping that we can lend a hand to people trying to work with the government and create companies in industry," Simcox said.
Stephen Konya, senior innovation strategist at the ONC, echoed that sentiment. "We want to work with all of you," he said. "Supporting you helps us support greater competition and a more efficient marketplace."
The ONC uses contests and grants to encourage and engage innovators.
Lately, ONC representatives have also been pushing open APIs for greater interoperability, as legislators called for in the 21st Century Cures Act. But, Konya said, "we are still bogged down a bit with interoperability challenges."
Relatedly, speaking on behalf of the Indian Health Service, Simcox said the agency is at a turning point, as it decides whether to modernize its electronic health record—which is built on much of th same architecture as the system the VA is replacing with Cerner—or replace it. "Cerner's great," he said. "But just because you're on the same platform doesn't necessarily automatically give you interoperability."
A move to Cerner would be another major win for the vendor, which just signed a $10 billion contract with the VA to replace that agency's homegrown VistA.
One tool that may help with data exchange is telehealth, Brady told Modern Healthcare. Physician-to-physician exchange of data is where telehealth is poised to excel in the short term, he said. Long term, telehealth stands to increase access for patients, he said.
To encourage development of virtual healthcare tools, HHS officials must clarify what telehealth is in the first place, Brady said.
Indeed, a current of clarification—or demystification—ran through the event. "We want to demystify HHS," Brady said, "to give people more comfort to work with us."
Want to continue the conversation about venture capital in healthcare? Join Modern Healthcare on June 7-8 at its Transformation Summit.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.