Federal Health and technology leaders on open standards successes; encouraging health IT entrepreneurs at HIMSS ’11 venture fair
Proclaiming “today is the best time to be a healthcare entrepreneur in America”, Unites States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra stood before a room of health IT and business leaders at the HIMSS 2011 Health IT Venture Fair & Strategic Partner Forum. Kicking off the pre-conference panel of government leaders in health IT, management and policy. Joining Chopra were Peter Levin, CIO of the Veterans Administration, and Farzad Mostashari, MD Deputy National Coordinator of the Office of National Coordinator, the office overseeing technical and policy aspects of US healthcare transformation efforts. The one-day venture forum preceded the HIMSS 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition, and focused on driving healthcare IT related innovation and economic development opportunities in the private sector based on opportunities presented in the HITECH and Affordable Care Acts.
To frame the conversation, Chopra shared examples of recent funding for programs like the national wireless initiative, a $3 billion innovation fund that would spur basic R&D for security and reliability engineering so “wireless communication can be fully leveraged in our healthcare ecosystem.” Chopra said $100 million of that fund is earmarked for healthcare application innovation.
Details were also shared about the Startup America Partnership, an alliance of US entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations, and other private sector leaders working to increase success rates for high-growth enterprises in the U.S. The program was created to support research which shows job growth in the United States is driven entirely by startups.
During the panel session, as well as at many other points during the conference, Chopra outlined the administration’s three-point approach to innovation in Health IT:
- Enabling a “all hands on deck” strategy for R&D and standards, using a “Government as convener” strategy to inspire different players to offer new products and services.
- Investment in the “building blocks of innovation” to enable US health IT outpace America’s economic competitors around the world.
- Enabling market-based innovation, catalyzing entrepreneurship via the Startup America Partnership, and new policy initiatives like simplification of the Research & Experimentation tax credit and the modernization the U.S. Patent Office.
Chopra cited numerous examples as indicators that successful models can be found throughout the healthcare IT space. The NHIN Direct Project which saw dozens of vendors, many of them competitors, working in collaboration with the ONC and each other to establish standards for a simple and secure way to share encrypted health information between parties. The CONNECT project, a reference implementation of these standards being an example of an open source project convened by government and led by the HHS Office of National Coordinator.
Announced in March of 2010, the open collaborative convened and moved quickly to reach consensus on the technical specifications soon after. Within 3 months the first of several firms announced they’d commercialize the spec, The program went live in January of 2011, and as of today over 50 organizations have announced their support of the Direct protocol.
“DC to VC: Investing in Healthcare IT Summit”, which saw participation by the Office of National Coordinator, and companies such as Practice Fusion and Vocera, was also cited as having a positive impact on economic development.
“This will be,” Chopra said, “one of the fastest protocols to go from concept to execution.” To the notion that the public and private sectors continued focus on R&D collaboration and open-standards philosophy, he said, “this is the best time to be an entrepreneur.”
On the last day of 2011 Healthcare Information Systems Society’s Annual Conference & Exhibition, Richard Boyd, Chief Architect for Lockheed Martin Virtual World Labs, a renown expert in virtual reality simulation for computer gaming, defense and film industries, shared his “Simulation Prescription”; showing how gaming and simulation technology have the potential to further revolutionize health care. In particular, Boyd demonstrated several examples of interactive 3D simulation technology which could enhance understanding of complex visualization challenges, and better forecast potential disruptive events.
As one of the creators of the Lockheed Martin Virtual World Labs, Boyd leads a group that utilizes cutting edge gaming and virtual world technologies to improve human performance. Before joining Lockheed, Boyd was the General Manager and VP of Sales for Virtus Corporation, where authors Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton were but a few of the collaborators Boys worked with as their gaming titles pushed the envelope of technology. While this session demonstrated very little in the way of open source technology, it does underscore examples of how technology has the potential to be re-purposed in ways that are not initially intended.
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