Sebelius touts winners of HHSinnovates program

By Mike Miliard
11:21 AM

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced six winners in the HHSinnovates program on March 30, saying the entries “show a vibrant culture of innovation” within the department.

“The HHSinnovates program celebrates inventive new ideas to help carry out the mission of the department,” said Sebelius. “We have tapped into a culture of collaboration, creativity and innovation that encourages out of the box thinking to improve our service to Americans.”

Sebelius launched the program in 2010 to reward innovative projects and spur accelerated innovation throughout HHS. Six top winners are selected and recognized twice each year. This is the fourth round of winners the department has announced since launching in 2010. The program allows all HHS employees to vote for the best entries via a secure online portal. In the fourth round of the program, about 13,000 votes were cast by HHS employees, the highest number of employee votes of any round to date.

“Innovation depends on building from idea to idea, and we want all HHS employees to be able to benefit from the innovative work being done throughout the department,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr. "The fourth round of HHSinnovates included several exciting new features, including the opportunity for entrants to obtain peer coaching from previous winners, acting as mentors, as well as access to a database of past innovation nominations that have been submitted to the contest."

The March 30 winners included three “Secretary’s Picks” and three honorable mentions. Sebelius' three personal picks included:

  • Electronic Patient Tracking in Disasters. To help hospitals manage high volumes of incoming patients in disaster situations, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) worked collaboratively with leading hospitals in Bethesda, Maryland to develop a Patient Tracking and Locating System that can be made available to hospitals nationwide. Through its novel use of technology, this system empowers hospital emergency management staff with real-time information about incoming patient counts, severity status, and location, assuring key decision makers have the information necessary to make timely decisions critical to patient care. It is an exportable model that can be easily deployed and tailored to work in any hospital setting, say key contributors to the project, who include Ivor D’Souza, Wei Ma, Cindy Notobartolo, Laura Lee, Chandra Kola, David Zhang and Dwight Clarke.
  • Connecting Kids with Dental Care. Drawing on the web’s popular “store locator” formats, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) formed a partnership with more than 150 state agencies and managed care organizations to create an easy-to-use online search tool for finding dental providers who serve children from low-income families. The Insure Kids Now Dental Provider Locator is designed to enable mostly-automatic updating from existing data sources, greatly reducing the costs of upkeep while ensuring current information. Key contributors were Terri Lynn Cohen, Nancy Goetschius, James Resnick, Sanjoy Chakraborty, Keith Adams and Barbara Gandy
  • Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stepped far outside the normal government communications box with a social media campaign that used humor and popular culture to convey basic messages about disaster preparedness. Using the CDC blog, Public Health Matters, a small team of employees crafted what they call a witty but educational blog post about zombie preparedness, while regularly referring to real emergencies like hurricanes, floods or earthquakes. Communicators stated that if people were prepared for a zombie apocalypse they were prepared for any emergency. Readers were told how to make an emergency plan and kit as well as how to stay informed. When the campaign went viral, its messages reached millions of viewers, and personal knowledge about preparing for disasters was enormously increased – for an initial investment of only $87. Key contributors were Dave Daigle, Margaret Silver, Ali Khan and Catherine Jamal.

The other three innovations who were also recognized on March 30 were:

  • Million Hearts Initiative. This is a national initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in America over five years. As a result of the initiative, multiple agencies at HHS joined together to create a uniform set of measures to monitor clinical performance and implement interventions based on four key evidence-based prevention strategies (appropriate use of aspirin, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation) and have aligned incentives for clinicians and health systems to achieve high performance. Through the use of meaningful incentives, HHS officials say they have effectively engaged public and private partners to adopt the initiative’s approach and interventions and to assist in raising awareness of cardiovascular disease by utilizing new media technologies. In its first six months, the approach has resulted in more than 35 public and private stakeholder organizations working together to deliver aligned and focused prevention strategies. Key contributors were Michael Schooley, Peter Briss, James Galloway, Judy Hannan, Joseph McCannon, Farzad Mostashari and Janet Wright
  • Leveraging the Public to Catch Fugitives. As part of a broad upgrade of its communications activities, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) created the first federal website focused solely on accused criminals wanted for health care fraud. The OIG’s Most Wanted Healthcare Fugitives website leverages the power of the public and social media in catching and punishing criminals, federal officials said. OIG special agents, even with the help of other federal law enforcement partners, cannot be on every U.S. street corner, so tips are essential. In the initiative’s first year, 10 fugitives were captured and held responsible for stealing millions of dollars. An international fugitive even turned himself in after discovering himself on the Most Wanted list. Key contributors were Roberta Baskin, Erin Fuchs, and Jessica Long
  • Bridging the CHASM of Health Disparities. Through an innovative outreach program, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps greatly leveraged its own resources and those of other federal, state and local agencies to improve public health services to Americans, HHS officials said. In its Community Health and Service Missions (CHASM) program, the Corps draws on its unique position under the leadership of the Surgeon General to assemble broad federal and state resources and target them in a cost-effective way to help local agencies improve their public health assessment, analysis, and interventions. Key contributors were Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, Capt. Carol Lincoln, MaryAnn Veitch, Capt. Calvin Edwards, Capt. Alan Parham, Cdr. Christopher McGee, and Cdr. David Morrissette.

More information about the program and the winning innovations can be found at