Inaugural HHS innovation fellows to tackle health IT projects

Researchers will tackle health IT projects ranging from developing new clinical quality measures based on data in electronic health records to devising electronic tracking and transport of transplant organs under a new U.S. Department of Health & Human Services program.

The inaugural class of HHS External Innovation Fellows, and their four projects, were announced Wednesday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The fellows will collaborate with HHS "internal innovators" over the next six to 12 months on the projects.

The projects are:

  • Developing new clinical quality measures that incorporate information available in electronic health records to monitor the impact of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) and the Affordable Care Act. Fellow Mindy Hangsleben of Portland, Ore., will work with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
  • Developing an electronic infrastructure that states can integrate to determine financial eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Zachery Jiwa of Baton Rouge, La., and Chris Lunt of San Francisco will work with CMS on the project.
  • Devising electronic tracking and transport of the nation's organ transplant system to improve identification, labeling, packaging and transport, and include electronic means of identifying organs. David Cartier of Roswell, Ga., and Clive Hohberger of Chicago, Ill., will work with the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • Developing ways for durable medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and IV infusion pumps to work during prolonged power outages following natural disasters. Frank Sanborn of Seattle will work with HHS's assistant secretary for preparedness and response and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the project.

The external innovators represent organizations including Intel, Microsoft, the U.S. Postal Service and the Louisiana Department of Health, HHS says. They bring "entrepreneurial and innovative expertise that will help revolutionize the way things are done in government and improve the health of millions of Americans in the process," Sebelius says in a statement.

The HHS external fellows program is one of several government programs intended to drive innovation in healthcare and health IT.

For example, CMS awarded $122.6 million in grants to 26 projects earlier this year in its first round of Health Care Innovation awards.

For its part, ONC has sponsored several health IT innovation challenges to promote development of health apps to tackle cancer, for example, or to help disabled patients access electronic health records.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS announcement


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