Data has been released from the “vaults of government” and it is waiting for entrepreneurs to find ways to use it in innovative ways to improve health and healthcare and create jobs at the same time, said HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park while speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Nashville Health Care Council during the fourth annual Vanderbilt Health Care Conference and Career Fair.
“There is somebody in this room who will change healthcare as we know it,” Park said after predicting that U.S. entrepreneurs “will invent our way out of the healthcare problem.” Park added, however, that he is “haunted” by the fear that he will overlook someone’s brilliant idea that will solve the crisis, so he urged people to e-mail their suggestions to him at email@example.com and he promised to respond within five days.
As is the case with other pep talks he’s given, Park gave a plug for the government’s health data website, and noted several data-driven programs such as the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department’s Blue Button initiative, which allows veterans to obtain their own healthcare data. Park said the VA estimated that it would get about 25,000 downloads, but “with basically no marketing,” the service has been used by some 430,000 vets to download their health records.
He also told the story of the Spiroscout, a device that clamps on inhalers used by asthma patients and tracks where attacks occur so steps can be taken to prevent them in the future.
But, while noting how data and technology can “make magic happen,” Park also said how one of the best communication interfaces ever developed was “talking to another human.”
When an audience member asked Park if there was a way to infuse the rest of the federal government with his energy, Park used the moment as an opportunity to defend his HHS co-workers. Many of the most talented entrepreneurs he’s ever met are actually working for the federal government, Park said. “They just need to be unleashed.”
He explained that many good ideas are doomed by harnessing them to “six months of strategery.” Park, a co-founder of practice-management and electronic health-record system software provider Athenahealth, said his CTO job title was a “red herring” and that he really serves as “entrepreneur in residence,” and that his duty is to “unlock the mojo” of the HHS staff and to “let them know they can rock ‘n’ roll.”