Stimulating Innovation in U.S. Healthcare: The view from the top

3 min
December 16, 2014


mhealth 2014 inline image

Last week, at the sixth annual mHealth Summit, Dr. Joe Smith, chief medical and science officer of the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, continued to drive the conversation about creating an automated, connected and coordinated healthcare system. The Summit is the world’s largest mobile health event and highlights the intersection of mobile/connected health with technology, business, research and policy. Dr. Smith’s panel, Stimulating Innovation in U.S. Healthcare – The View from the Top, brought together federal agency leaders to discuss how they are working in new and unique ways with innovators, entrepreneurs and in cross-agency capacities to drive innovation in mobile health.

Participating panelists included Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer at Health and Human Services (HHS); Jodi Daniel, director of the Office of Policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC); and Linda Ricci, branch chief, Cardiac Diagnostic Devices in the Office of Device Evaluation within the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Federal agencies can help provide the framework to facilitate the much needed transformation in healthcare delivery through supporting the safety and reliability of mobile health devices, while promoting innovation, lowering costs and improving overall care efficiencies,” Smith said during his introduction. “West Health is pleased to bring together this esteemed panel to highlight innovation inside and outside of agency walls to drive mobile health efforts and effect real change in healthcare.”

The session kicked off with panelists sharing their perspectives on what it will take to achieve meaningful medical interoperability, the ability of health information to be shared seamlessly across medical devices and systems. Achieving interoperability is critical in order to advance an automated, connected and coordinated healthcare system. Care coordination, data analytics and the safety and efficiency of medical devices all rely on interoperability.

“Providers need an incentive to share data. We need to change the payment structure to incentivize for data exchange,” Daniel said. “Interoperability isn’t a market failure; markets work for players, not patients.”

There was consensus among participants that interoperability is not a technology problem, and the real roadblocks lie in our current business, policy and culture approaches to the issue, with Dr. Smith emphasizing the need for patients to be part of the conversation.

Panelists also discussed their cross-functional priorities. Sivak highlighted a number of exciting projects and initiatives currently underway at HHS, including the HHS IDEA Lab, which encourages employees to bring their ideas and problems forward to promote a better workplace. To help stimulate innovation internally at HHS they created the HHS Ignite Accelerator, which is modeled after a traditional Silicon Valley accelerator according to Sivak. Other successful ongoing programs include HHS Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and HHS Innovator-In-Residence, the latter of which West Health helped launch in 2012.

Daniel also reinforced ONC’s commitment to working with other federal agencies, as well as the importance of soliciting public feedback as part of that strategy. On Monday ONC released the draft Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, outlining the strategy for how they plan to collect, use and share data to drive health IT.

“We are accepting public comments through February 6, 2015 and look forward to the public’s insights on how we can improve our strategy moving forward,” Daniel said.

Another focal point for the panel was individual and cross-agency perspectives on regulatory challenges for mobile health and progress-to-date of integrating these solutions into the greater healthcare system.

Ricci stressed that the FDA does not want to be the “roadblock” to device creation and development. “The technology we are seeing today has the promise to transform healthcare and the FDA understands that the appropriate regulation of this technology is critical in order for it to reach patients,” she said. “At times, perhaps the best regulation to encourage innovation is no regulation.”

Thanks to the FDA, ONC and HHS for sharing their agency perspectives on policy and regulation of mobile health. Their work is integral to help achieve high-quality healthcare that is more accessible at a lower cost for all Americans, the mission of West Health. We were proud to be a strategic affiliate, and look forward to 2015.

By Erin Bateman
Director, External and Community Relations
West Health