Federal Health Officials Declare Need for More Innovation, Use of Data

On Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called for more innovation in health care, saying the pace of advancements in health IT in the U.S. have moved "at a crawl" for the last 30 years, Federal Computer Week reports.

Sebelius spoke at the second annual Health Data Initiative Forum in Bethesda, Md., which was designed to highlight HHS efforts in making data more accessible to developers.

Sebelius said U.S. residents experience a "triple loss" because they have the highest public health care costs, highest private health care costs and mediocre health outcomes (Lipowicz [1], Federal Computer Week, 6/9).

HHS Efforts

According to Sebelius, the department is seeking to make better use of the data it already has and to make government-collected health data more readily accessible to industry entrepreneurs (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 6/9).

HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said HHS has published new data and made existing data more user-friendly. According to Park, available data include:

  • Claims information;
  • Community health information;
  • Consumer product information; and
  • Health care provider and directory information.

StartUp Health Launched

Also during the forum, U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra announced the launch of StartUp Health, an initiative aimed at bridging gaps between stakeholders involved in accelerating innovation in health care.

In addition, StartUp Health will help entrepreneurs create health and wellness companies by improving access to resources such as:

  • Capital;
  • Data, technology and other tools;
  • Long-term support;
  • Investors specific to certain sectors; and
  • A talent pool of individuals focused on health care innovation.

StartUp Health's first program will be to hold three roundtable sessions to discuss barriers and opportunities in setting up health and wellness companies (Merrill [1], Healthcare IT News, 6/9).

Health Care Apps Featured 

At the conference, 45 health-related applications were presented, including:

  • iTriage, developed by Healthagen, which provides individuals with information on locating medical services;
  • Apps by health insurer Aetna that provide data about county demographics, nursing home comparison information and dietary counseling; and
  • Ozioma -- described by Charlene Caburnay, a research assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University -- which provides journalists with localized data on conditions like cancer and diabetes (Merrill [2], Healthcare IT News, 6/9).

Study Raises Questions on Mobile Apps' Efficacy

Also during the forum, Abdul Shaikh -- a program director and behavioral scientist at the National Cancer Institute -- discussed a study that found that iPhone apps designed to help people stop smoking "rarely adhered to established guidelines."

According to the study, apps that fail to adhere to best practice guidelines might not be effective in helping consumers.

To that end, Shaikh said NCI is launching a challenge to develop apps that integrate new technology with existing systems for use in cancer care. NCI will offer four prizes of $10,000 each for winning apps (Lipowicz [2], Federal Computer Week, 6/9).


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