By Nancy Voorhees
The FedHealthIT100 event held last week honored those individuals from Government and industry recognized for driving change and advancement in the Federal Health Information Technology Market. Key Government leaders from across the Federal Health sector shared insights on the year ahead and on the state of IT modernization and emerging technologies at their agencies.
Dr. Terry Adirim, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense – Health Affairs, DOD, delivered the keynote address highlighting how the FHIT100 leaders are driving critical advancements in health IT that support safe and effective care, improving patient outcomes and saving lives.
Dr. Adirim, about to become Program Executive Director for Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration at VA, discussed lessons learned and innovation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing to the importance of further refining this work, accelerating it, and ensuring improvements are sustained in the long run.
Initiatives and Programs Driving Federal Health in 2022
In the first panel discussion, Dr. Barclay Butler, Assistant Director for Management (AD-M)/Component Acquisition, Executive (CAE), DHA; Karen Jackson, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, CMS; and Ryan Vega, Chief Officer, Healthcare Innovation and Learning, VHA, discussed initiatives and programs driving Federal Health in 2022.
Karen said expanding Healthcare access is a focus for CMS as they look to the future. Six strategic pillars guide policies and implementation including: Advancing health equity by addressing health disparities; building on the Affordable Care Act and expanding access to affordable Healthcare coverage and care; engaging partners and the communities CMS serves throughout the policymaking and implementation process; continuing to drive innovation to tackle health system challenges and promote value-based, person-centered care; protecting programs’ sustainability for future generations by serving as a responsible steward of the public funds; and fostering a positive and an inclusive workplace and workforce, promoting excellence in all aspects of CMS’ operations. An awareness of the populations CMS services and sitting side-by-side developing and testing is what’s important to CMS from industry for the future, she said.
Ryan discussed VHA’s focus on five core capabilities for the health system of the future. These include point-of-care manufacturing where custom devices and solutions are developed for the patient using technologies such as 3D printing and rapid prototyping; data transformation where AI tools are used to reduce administrative burden for clinicians; immersive technology, such as virtual reality, helping to increase accessibility to care; clinical simulation to help advance the adoption and integration of new technologies; and digital health and digital transformation, which will help better connect underserved populations to the Healthcare system. Opportunities with industry in the future will be about co-development of solutions in an iterative and agile fashion.
Dr. Butler discussed medical readiness. In support of MHS GENESIS, DHA has completed the Medical Community of Interest(Med-COI), a single, enterprise-wide network designed to support military health IT requirements. The Desktop to Datacenter (D2D) initiative has also been deployed with a single active directory that enables clinicians to sign onto their clinical desktop anywhere in the world. The D2D allows for standardized onpremise design of a system in all of the MTFs, creating a standard network management solution, standard desktop system, and standard applications. Bringing standardization across the entire enterprise is key and industry sharing enterprise solutions that have worked in the private sector will be helpful going forward.
Navigating Acquisition and Procurement at the Speed of Innovation at VA
In the first fireside chat, Michael Parrish, Principal Executive Director, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction at VA, discussed digital transformation in the areas of EHRM financial reform, and supply chain logistics reform. Michael said VA is strengthening its governance structure and acquisition process, working on improving oversight, visibility, transparency, and jointness across the enterprise, which also means focusing on requirements first, understanding business processes and then making the technical decision – after properly vetting and understanding the customer needs. Michael would like to see a single web intake portal, so all industry partners have a single point of entry into VA. He expects more reverse industry days ahead to ensure there is a streamlined process and a more responsive team working closely with industry partners.
IT Modernization and Digital Transformation at FDA
The next fireside chat was with Vid Desai, Chief Information Officer, FDA, who discussed the Agency’s approach to modernization and the priorities and initiatives for the year ahead including budget changes. Vid said that 90 percent of the budget is currently spent on running legacy systems, while only 10 percent is available for growth and transformation. Moving forward, 30 percent of the budget is needed for the growing and changing business needs and with that model, there will be sustainable modernization. Strategic discussions internally at the FDA and with HHS, OMB and congressional partners are aimed at getting additional funds needed for this change. As for key initiatives, the Cloud is a key priority forward and anything new should be conceived in the Cloud from the start.
FDA is also focused on ensuring end-to-end business processes are optimized before modernization dollars are spent.
Another initiative is building an agile and financially sustainable IT infrastructure which involves shifting the environment from a legacy perimeter network to a software defined network. In parallel, the security infrastructure has been revamped to the Zero Trust model. The application teams at FDA are focused on AI and RPA as they look to these efforts. In all of this, vendor partnerships are important, innovative solutions are needed, and a multi-day event designed to engage the vendor community is in the planning stages for 2022.
Emerging Technologies Shifting the Landscape in 2022
In the final panel Dr. Neil Evans, Performing the Delegable Duties of the Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology and Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology, VA, and Rajiv Uppal, Chief Information Officer at CMS, discussed missions and emerging technologies at their respective agencies.
Dr. Evans said VA is focused on delivering technologies that connect patients and providers in a seamless, frictionless way. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the VA has provided 14.7 million telehealth visits, with 711,000 of those this past November alone. They are focused on delivering care where Veterans are, and virtualizing care for the providers and Healthcare staff. EHRM remains a key focus and will require new ideas and partnership with industry.
At CMS, Rajiv said that the focus is on modernization in a way that improves the processes – using HCD, for example. Another focus is reducing the burden of securing an Authority to Operate and the compliance that goes with putting a new system in production. Supporting this, CMS has invested time and resources into its Cloud infrastructure, both in security, and the provision of services. CMS is also making available a sandbox for proof of concepts and pilots to reduce some of the barriers around new technologies and investing in Platform-as-a-Service to reduce some of the compliance burden and technology complexities, providing a greater opportunity for interoperability.
CMS is also investing on the data side, considering how to enable easier access to data via a data mesh or platform. They are also investing in their workforce, creating opportunities to upskill personnel for the challenges ahead. CMS would like vendor partners to continue working with them to establish and use some of these enterprise services they are building, with the goal of a less complex IT environment over the long term.
During the event two individuals were recognized with lifetime achievement awards: Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Assistant Undersecretary for Health, Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks (DEAN)at VA, and Claude Hines, Chief Operating Officer at MicroHealth.
Seven individuals were recognized with Communicator of the Year awards. Nominated and selected by their peers, the award recognizes professionals who have demonstrated a commitment to the enhancement of communication and relationships between Government and industry and the broader Federal Health community they serve.
The event closed with the FedHealthIT100 award winners and Hall of Fame Honorees. Common themes among those selected include the desire and willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, to go above and beyond, to drive innovation, and to give back to the larger Federal Health IT and Consulting community.
We appreciate our sponsors – noted throughout the article and below – for making this event a success.