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How HHS Is Fostering Innovation and Investment in Healthcare


The agency has launched several initiatives that focus on amplifying the technology that empowers patients and improves outcomes.

Eric Hargan

The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) is determined to foster innovation and investment in healthcare. The agency is always looking for which levers it can pull to drive innovation and reduce barriers that stand in the way of innovation from all sectors to improve patient outcomes.

That’s why the agency launched the Deputy Secretary’s Innovation and Investment Summit (DSIIS), a yearlong collaboration between innovators, investors and HHS personnel who will meet quarterly to discuss the innovation and investment landscape within the healthcare sector.

At a keynote “Fostering Innovation and Investment in Healthcare” at World Health Care Congress, Eric Hargan, deputy secretary for HHS, said that in launching DSIIS, the agency is focused on four things: value-based care, empowering and engaging patients as consumers, liberating data and improving regulatory reimbursement decisions.

Shifting from Volume to Value

One of HHS secretary Alex Azar’s main priorities is the transition from volume to value-based care.

“We believe that this transition is essential in delivering Americans better care at a lower cost,” Hargan said.

We need to shift from a system that pays for sickness and procedures to one that pays for health and outcomes, which demands innovation in healthcare.

Bringing true value-based care to primary care is a significant need. So, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched Comprehensive Primary Care Plus in 2017, an advanced primary care medical home model. Comprehensive Primary Care Plus aims to strengthen primary care through regionally-based multi-payer payment reform and care delivery transformation.

Empowering the Consumer

Patients should come first and be the primary focus of our healthcare system. However, that is not the case.

In other marketplaces, consumers are at the center of its focus.

But HHS is working to improve that by launching PETS (Patient-Empowering Technologies) in 2018.

The initiative is focused on innovators who are using smartphones, artificial intelligence and software information technology to help patients take control of their health from outside of the doctor’s walls. From wearable technology to implantables and digital health apps, these innovations put the power in the patient’s hands.

These technologies have the potential to reduce costly and inconvenient trips to the hospitals.

“We want new patient-empowering technologies to be brought to the market, to be paid for and given to patients so they can better manage their own health,” Hargan said.

PETS is looking at ways that technology can be used to implement coordinated specialty care for those with mental illnesses that do not have easy access to a program. Implementing technology can help improve outcomes and reduce costs for those in rural populations.

“Patient-centered technology is far from being just a novelty or just a fad,” Hargan said. “It can offer real opportunities to improve care for patients, including for illnesses that — like serious mental illness — have been stubborn challenges for too long.”

Liberating the Data

Data should be facilitating fast and effective research and empowering patients.

Patients deserve to have the access to all of the information about their health.

That’s why the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CMS drafted two rules aimed at providing patients and providers access to interoperable health information.

“Our proposals are centered on one goal: Getting patients access to their records. Period,” said Hargan.

The agencies want to make the regulations as simple as possible by dictating what, not how in health information technology (IT). It is up to private actors to determine how health IT is going to achieve interoperability.

“We want to get to a place where health data is accessible to patients, providers, research and other stakeholders, in, importantly, a secure and appropriate manner that facilitates health and healthcare decisions at the points of care and in the home,” Hargan said.

Steps Toward a Bigger Vision

Hargan said that all of the efforts HHS is working on to foster innovation in healthcare are coordinated steps for the agency toward a bigger vision where patients and innovators can take the lead on building a better healthcare system.

“Bold innovation is the only way to deliver American patients the options and control they want, the affordability that they need and the quality that they deserve,” he said.

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