Innovation Winners Honored by Secretary Sebelius

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced six winners of round two of the HHSinnovates program, saying that innovation must become “our way of life at HHS.” The HHSinnovates program was launched last year to recognize exceptional innovation efforts throughout all the agencies of HHS.

“Only innovation and a welcoming attitude to new ideas will enable HHS and its partners to succeed in today’s challenging environment,” Secretary Sebelius said in announcing the awardees. “Our round two winners show how innovation can support both our short-term and long-term goals and these innovations also show how new approaches can actually leverage one another to greater success.”

In the HHSinnovates program, innovation candidates are invited from throughout the department in an open nomination process. In round two, nearly 90 qualified candidates were submitted. After an initial review process, the best candidates were put up for a vote by HHS employees. During round two, over 10,000 votes were cast by HHS employees. The final six awardees include three “Secretary’s Picks” and three honorable mentions.

Candidates are judged on innovativeness and applicability for use by other programs in HHS or throughout the federal government.

The “Secretary’s Picks” in round two are:

  • Using Electronic Health Records for Public Health Surveillance – The Indian Health Service (IHS) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a new public health reporting tool, which used de-identified information from electronic health records (EHRs) to provide near real-time surveillance of the H1N1 flu in American Indian/Alaska Native populations. The new system helped direct the availability of limited supplies of H1N1 vaccine, and it provided an early proof of the effectiveness of EHRs for public health surveillance, which is an important long-term goal in the national initiative for switching from paper medical records to electronic records. Key Contributors: John Redd, IHS; Jim Cheek, IHS; Terry Cullen, IHS; Larry Layne, IHS; Jim Hayslett, IHS; James Keck, CDC; Amy Groom, CDC.
  • FDA-TRACK = Transparency, Results, Accountability, Credibility, Knowledge-sharing – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed a web-based tool for tracking progress on key activities throughout the agency and making the information available both internally and to external stakeholders and the public. FDA-TRACK is the first comprehensive performance-measuring tool applied across a major federal agency and made available both internally and externally, in response to the Administration’s “Open Government” initiative. This exploratory management tool has been made public while refinement of the product continues, so far monitoring progress for over 600 performance measures in some 100 key projects, spanning all 114 FDA program offices. Key Contributors: Timothy Kiang, FDA; Kelly McReynolds, FDA; Giles Mills, FDA; Tiffany Yu, FDA; Tiffany Clark, FDA; Ann Vale, FDA; Kari Schraf, FDA.
  • “MedLinePlus Connect” Service for Electronic Health Records – The National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the NIH, has adapted its widely-used MedLinePlus information service to make it directly linkable to electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs). In this way, consumers can instantly connect from their EHR or PHR to the information at MedLinePlus. For example, a consumer could link instantly from a particular diagnosis on his or her electronic record to MedLinePlus information about that condition and its treatment, including further links to pertinent drug information. In providing this service for consumers, the new service also provides an easy, cost-free tool that health care providers could use to meet one of the optional Meaningful Use objectives for patient education and help them qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for EHR adoption and use. Key Contributors: Joyce Backus, NIH; Stephanie Dennis, NIH; Naomi Miller, NIH; Joseph Potvin, NIH; Sarena Burgess, NIH; Maxine Rockoff, Columbia University.

The three honorable mention winners are:

  • From Outer Space to the Eye Clinic: NASA-NIH team develops a new device to detect blinding cataracts early – A collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has led to development of a clinical device for much earlier detection of cataracts. Two government scientists brought about the collaboration and development of the device, which measures changes in alpha crystalline proteins in the lens of the eye, and is adapted from a device created for use in outer space. The device holds promise for improved understanding and treatment of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the world. This is a prime example of two government agencies sharing information and resources in the service of the American people. Key Contributors: Manuel Datiles, NIH; Fredrick Ferris, NIH; Rafat Ansari, NASA; J. Samuel Zigler, Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
  • “Ready, Cert, Go!” – The Office of Human Resources has created a new process to streamline the hiring process for the most frequently needed positions throughout HHS. The traditional hiring process required each position to be advertised, and candidates certified, independently. The goal of the “Ready, Cert, Go!” initiative is to have a pool of certified candidates continuously available for the 12 most commonly advertised job series and grades, which will account for 4,000 positions or 67 percent of projected 2011 hiring needs. This initiative will reduce the amount of time managers must spend on hiring actions and expedite the process of filling needed positions throughout the Department. Key Contributors: Denise Wells, OHR; Antonia Harris, OHR; Kent Slakey, OHR; Linda Bishop-Milton, OHR; TJ Powers, OHR; Donna Sanders, OHR; Marcia Gosha-Caldwell; OHR.
  • MONAHRQ – Input Your Data, Output Your Website – The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed freely-available software to enable organizations to create health care reporting web sites. Such sites can be useful for communities in assessing health care needs and for consumers as they seek out health care resources to serve them best. In many instances, the data for such sites already exists, but development of interactive software is a barrier to making the information readily available. By creating a free software (called MONAHRQ, “My Own Network, powered by AHRQ”), AHRQ is facilitating the wide availability of useful health care data, including quality and cost information. Key Contributors: Carol Sniegoski, AHRQ; Anne Elixhauser, AHRQ; Taressa Fraze, Thomson Reuters Health Care.

Awards were announced by Secretary Sebelius in a ceremony at HHS headquarters, with featured speaker Dean Hovey, a leading Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The ceremony, as well as other information about HHSinnovates, can be accessed at

“President Obama has made clear the importance he places on innovation, both in government and throughout the American economy,” said Todd Park, HHS chief technology officer. “With the completion of round two, our HHSinnovates program shows that innovation is not only alive and well but also well-recognized and rewarded in HHS.”

Round three of HHSinnovates will begin with a call for nominations in May.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at


HHS Press Office

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  District of Columbia

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Practice Management  Health  Public Policy/Government  Healthcare Reform  Public Policy  White House/Federal Government  General Health



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