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“Join me in reinventing health,” Medicine X speaker Susannah Fox urges

Susannah Fox, CTO, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services

Some might balk at the challenge of promoting innovation in a federal agency. Not Susannah Fox, who wrapped up Friday's main session with a closing keynote at Stanford Medicine X.

Fox is chief technology officer in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and leads its IDEA Lab, a group created in 2013 to foster decentralization and teamwork in the huge agency. There she's worked on numerous projects, including one that involved sponsoring nearly 120 challenges to solve specific health-care challenges.

Fox's colleagues embody a "creative can-do spirit that most people associate with start-up companies," she told the audience. "I really want the collision between health care, technology and government to look less like a battle, and more like alchemy."

There is opposition to a health-care industry led by empowered patients that values open-source — rather than proprietary — data and devices, Fox said. "The forces at work against us are strong, but I believe we are stronger and I believe the tide is shifting in our favor."

The key is opening up and working together, she said, pointing to the case of Erin Moore, an Ohio mother who reached out online for help creating a hands-free nebulizer for her son, who has cystic fibrosis. A community assembled to help her and she fielded questions via Twitter. Voilà, weeks later, they had a solution.

Fox said she has been spending quite a bit of time working with medical and assistive technology like the do-it-with-a-crowd hands-free nebulizer. Movements that are putting power in the hands of people — such as crowdfunding and the spread of 3-D printers — are making big changes for the better in health care, she said. She sited another example: the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston opening a maker space that allowed one burn unit nurse to develop a shower-head device that will help nurses irrigate burns.

Fox urged Medicine X attendees to persevere in the face of opposition. "We cannot let people who do not understand us, defeat us. This is at the core of being an entrepreneur and at the core of being an ePatient," she said.

"I believe in people's innate creativity and innovative spirit," Fox concluded. "I invite you to join me in reinventing health."

Previously: "The patient will see you now": A summit on consumer-centered health care innovation and Medicine X, the academic conference where "everyone is included," returns
Photo courtesy of Stanford Medicine X

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