Late last year, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan unveiled the department’s first Innovation and Investment Summit. The yearlong program hosts quarterly meetings with 15 private-sector leaders—with an emphasis on investors—in an effort to facilitate conversations on how the government can encourage investment in the healthcare industry.
Hargan, who delivered the closing keynote at Modern Healthcare’s Transformation Summit, spoke with technology reporter Jessica Kim Cohen. The following is an edited transcript.
On why he launched the summit
I came at it from the perspective of an attorney in the healthcare space. I knew that there was a broad array of clients, including private equity and venture capital firms, and that they have a different perspective that had kind of been left behind.
On the role investors play in healthcare transformation
Investors will invest where they see a return. The investor community provides the money that drives the innovation, that drives the new technologies and that drives modalities that ultimately result in better care for patients. We have to be able to provide them the incentives—or get rid of the disincentives—for them to enter a particular area. I’m thinking, this is a pretty important group that’s not at the table.
On what HHS has learned
One of many insights investors have provided was that there are two points of uncertainty in technology development: there’s the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory regime, and then you have to see whether Medicare is going to cover the technology. You have a yearslong process when you’re investing upfront into a potentially promising new technology, and you know you’re going to have a yearslong process after that—those two points of uncertainty potentially chill investment in the sector. To have that point strongly emphasized was pretty valuable to us.
On his goal for the summit
In some ways, the goal has already been achieved, because we have gotten a lot of reflections from the investors. I’ve tried to glean some of those insights from them, and we’re using that to inform policy. So it’s been really useful for me, and I hope it’s useful for them, too. Now we’re moving toward deciding what the “end goal” is that we mutually want to get to. I don’t want to be completely directive about this initiative. I want it to develop in partnership between us—in the government—and the investors.
On the future of the summit
Some of the people in the summit believe that there should be something that’s more permanent in the department. We’ll see. We’ve gotten a lot out of it, but we want to make sure that if it carries on we know where we’re going. If we find that we know this is going to be something valuable that we want to dedicate a lot of department time and attention to, then we’ll find a good home for it at HHS.