HHS Ventures program awards $400,000 for department-wide innovation projects

Projects come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and NIH National Cancer Institute; the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other agencies.
By Mike Miliard
10:21 AM
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Five entrepreneurial projects meant to drive technology and process efficiencies across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services scored $408,200 in financial backing this week, according to Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Mary Wakefield.

The HHS Ventures program offers growth-stage funding to HHS employees who offer proven ideas for driving innovation in their office, agency or the department as a whole. This round of money is the largest yet disbursed to the program.

"The teams selected today bring new approaches to improvement opportunities across the department's family of agencies," said Wakefield in a statement. "Continuing to foster innovation both outside and within HHS helps us meet challenges head on and deliver on our mission to serve the American people."

These projects come from from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and NIH National Cancer Institute; the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other agencies. The five initiatives are:

Automated Autism Classification for Public Health Surveillance. Population-based autism surveillance over 15 years is expensive and work-intensive, as clinicians review "dramatically increasing numbers" of medical and educational evaluations, according to HHS. This project, from CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, aims to apply machine learning to the process, helping reduce clinician workload and drive cost efficiencies.

Global Bidding and Assignment System 2.0. The GBAS, a specialized system for recruitment, bidding, training and assignment of professionals to help stave off global health threats, needs more scope and flexibility. This version has shown early promise in filling overseas global public health vacancies during its pilot, according to HHS. The project is a joint effort of team members from the HHS Office of Global Affairs, CDC, FDA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration.

NARMS Collect: A Public Health Surveillance Mobile App. From the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine: The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System team will design a mobile app meant to decrease manual entry of data associated with samples collected in the field – simplifying an 8-16 hour per month process and improve the accuracy of time sensitive food safety monitoring data that are used for regulatory decision making. Stakeholders are interested in the app's ability to conduct real time surveillance while saving the government time and dollars.

Optimizing HR Operations: The Federal HR Wiki. A team representing the Office of Human Resources at the NIH and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration is piloting a collaborative Wiki to help manage Federal Human Resources Knowledge. The goal would be to pilot this with the Office of Human Resources at NIH with the possibility of future expansion across the Department.

Automation of Onboarding Process for Special Government Employees. NIH has about 1,200 federal advisory committee members who provide second-level peer review of grant applications and offer guidance to NIH. Filling these positions is currently done manually – and requires the completion of 13 different forms. This automation initiative would enable data sharing, interoperability with existing systems and electronic interface with applicants.

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The hope is that this pilot – a joint project of NIH Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy and other related agencies – could be could be scalable to other HHS divisions and across the federal government, officials said.

"This third round of Ventures funding widens the lens to include more applications and more stakeholders than ever before," said HHS Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox in a statement. "I salute all of the innovative teams pursuing creative solutions and building our strength across the Department."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN