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U.S. Chief Technology Officer discusses health-care reform's effects on innovation

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park kicked off the 2012 GSB Healthcare Innovation Summit at Stanford yesterday with a fast-paced talk about how the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may affect health policy, business and technology.

Addressing attendees via Skype from Washington D.C., Park spoke excitedly about the challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs as provisions in the health law are rolled out. He cited the Harvard paper "Where are the Health Care Entrepreneurs? The Failure of Organizational Innovation in Health Care" in explaining why the pace of  health-care innovation has lagged behind other sectors, and he singled out two roadblocks standing in the way of innovation: economic incentives are wrong and patient data and other medical information is locked away. If the path to reform is unblocked, Park told the crowd, more entrepreneurs will invade health care, to the benefit of both entrepreneurs and health-care consumers. "This invasion is happening as we speak," he said. "It's still underground, but it's happening."

During his talk, Park touched on ways that the health law's implementation (which, it should be noted, hinges on the Supreme Court's forthcoming decision about its constitutionality) and efforts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can dismantle such roadblocks and, potentially, catalyze a technological revolution in the health-care industry. These include:

  • Improving transparency: A trust problem prevents more health information sharing from occurring, Park said. Services on let consumers compare insurance coverage and pricing options. (See also: ACA Title VI: Transparency and Program Integrity.)
  • Making more data available but ensuring privacy: Giving patients access to and control of their own data can empower patients and eliminate inefficiencies. One solution Park called attention to was, which provides patients with a clickable button that allows them to download  their personal medical records from a secure website offered by their doctors, insurers, pharmacies and other health service providers. The technology was implemented earlier this year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • Encouraging innovators to use data made available by HHS: Park mentioned Health Data Palooza, the annual forum of the Health Data Initiative,  as an example of how the federal government is fostering public-private collaboration in using HHS data to develop products and applications to improve health.

"I've never been more optimistic about the future of our health-care system," Park said in his concluding remarks.

Previously: Live tweeting Healthcare Innovation Summit and Ask Stanford Med: Stefanos Zenios taking questions on health-care innovation and entrepeneurship

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