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Feds Offer Prizes For Health IT Innovations

Initiative breaks new ground as it encourages private sector to innovate around key challenges in health IT, using contests and rewards as incentive.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has launched the Investing in Innovations (i2) Initiative--a program aimed at fostering innovations in health information technology (IT).

The program announced Wednesday is yet another attempt to encourage the private sector to collaborate with the federal government on finding innovative technology solutions in healthcare. The program, which is the first Administration-wide initiative that uses prizes and competitions to accelerate the development of solutions and communities around key challenges in health IT, is made possible by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which invests in innovation through research and development.

"The initiative demonstrates ONC's recognition of the importance of investing in innovations and provides a platform that will attract an expanded community of innovators to the full range of the agency's programs," Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement. "It opens the door to new opportunities for open collaboration from a wide range of diverse individuals and organizations that will increase the national rate of innovation and adoption of health IT as we improve healthcare of all Americans."

To get the program started, ONC has awarded nearly $5 million to the Capital Consulting Corporation (CCC), and Health 2.0 LLC, to fund projects supporting innovations in research and encouraging health IT development through open-innovation mechanisms like prizes and challenges. Both companies are expected to provide the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with up-to-date analysis of relevant, emerging innovations and associated trends that will help HHS better understand these developments, as well as the issues that surround them.

Co-founders of Health 2.0, Indu Subaiya and Matthew Holt, released a statement saying they are "incredibly excited about both our role in working with ONC and the opportunity that this gives all the innovators in the Health 2.0 community. They also said healthcare stakeholders interested in health IT innovation should "expect to soon hear from us about many more public sector challenges across the board in information technology in health with some considerably larger prizes than we've seen in the 22 challenges we've already managed."

The i2 Initiative will consult stakeholders across the healthcare sector, including hospitals, doctors, consumers, payers, states, employers, advocates, and relevant federal agencies to obtain direct input on execution and to build partnerships.

Examples of health IT competition topics developed in consultation with CCC and Health 2.0 LLC, include the following:

-- Applications that allow an individual to securely and effectively share health information with members of his or her social network.

-- Applications that generate results for patients, caregivers, and/or clinicians by providing them with access to rigorous and relevant information that can support real needs and immediate decisions.

-- Applications that allow individuals to connect during natural disasters and other periods of emergency.

-- Tools that facilitate exchange of health information while allowing individuals to customize the privacy allowances for their personal health records.

The i2 Initiative also will support data analysis of the current health IT environment and in order to track and model clusters of innovation, while simultaneously identifying connections between disparate innovator communities. The information collected will inform future advisory and policy-making activities.

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