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The Secretary’s Ventures Fund Announces 2017 Projects

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D. today announced the selection of five entrepreneurial projects for investment by the Secretary’s Ventures Fund (HHS Ventures). The projects were chosen from across HHS and are part of the latest round of funding and support designed to advance the Department’s innovation agenda.

“As we begin the Reimagine HHS process, it is vital to recognize and nourish innovation within the Department,” said Secretary Price. “These Ventures teams typify this spirit at HHS.”

HHS Ventures is a highly competitive effort that provides growth-stage funding and support to HHS employees with proven ideas for how to dramatically improve their office, agency, or the Department’s ability to carry out its mission.

This year, HHS Ventures is supported by funding from the Office of the Secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The projects selected by HHS Ventures represent critical areas of opportunity in improving the efficiency of the Department and include:

Optimizing Cyber-Molecular Surveillance of Viral Hepatitis

The CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis designed and implemented the Global Hepatitis Outbreak and Surveillance Technology (GHOST), the CDC’s first cloud-based surveillance and analysis system. GHOST is a virtual diagnostic system that extracts epidemiological intelligence from next-generation sequencing data.

GHOST provides a surveillance and analysis system for state laboratories to perform independent, inexpensive, and accurate outbreak investigations and then enabling collaboration and coordination across the public health system through a cloud-based system. Moreover, the modular structure and automation tools for GHOST are readily scalable to cyber-molecular surveillance of other viral infections.

The Fight against Zika: Leveraging Health Information Technology

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and CDC are partnering to combat the devastating effects of the Zika virus. An important part of a patient’s care can be the lab testing and results that accompany a visit to a clinician. While most systems have the ability to establish contact between commercial labs and providers, public health laboratories do not have the ability to exchange this information electronically. Almost all Zika tests are performed at public health laboratories and, because the information can’t be transmitted electronically, the orders, test results, and additional information (such as pregnancy status) are either sent via paper form or telephone.

This project would enable efficient data transmission and improve care for patients by transmitting orders and results in a faster and more efficient way. It would serve as an extension of existing electronic test order and result technology. Additionally, this would build the capacity of public health laboratories to respond and manage future changes in testing requirements guidance from public health authorities.

Internet Devices to Improve Animal Care

Millions of rodents are used in HHS research labs each year to both understand mechanisms of disease and develop new therapies. Monitoring the health of these animals is critical for ensuring that research studies produce quality data and research animals are treated humanely.

Currently, trained specialists monitor the health of these animals with daily checks of each cage. This is both time consuming and expensive. To improve health monitoring, a team from NIH and the FDA developed an internet-enabled device that turns a conventional rodent cage into a “smart cage”. The “smart cage” assesses food and water intake and sends high resolution data to an online server in real-time. This project represents a novel effort to understand rodent care and processes for monitoring rodent health. It has the potential to reduce the costs of health monitoring while improving the quality of care for research animals.

Electronic Signature Capture and Data Transfer

The Indian Health Service’s Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) has over 1,000 patient visits daily. Many of these patients need to complete insurance verification forms and multiple signatures are required for treatment and billing. In the past, paper forms were printed, verified by the patient or amended, and signed by the patient. Hospital staff then transported the signed forms to a separate building with a medical records facility, where they were scanned and stored. This process is cumbersome and inefficient.

In an effort to reduce labor and equipment costs and improve patient care, PIMC has tested and is adopting an electronic signature pad to capture patient signatures electronically. This system would create electronic forms and upload the signed forms directly into the network safely and efficiently.

Streamlining Acquisition of Lab Supplies

HHS currently purchases laboratory supplies using a variety of methods that are expensive, inefficient, and duplicative. The HHS Program Support Center is developing an end-to-end process to acquire laboratory supplies by creating an online marketplace to be used by laboratories across HHS. By applying proven supply chain and category management methodologies along with state of the art technology, HHS can reduce inefficiencies, improve consumer satisfaction, and enhance business processes. This approach is scalable to other commodities purchased across HHS and the federal government.

For more information on HHS Ventures, visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/octo/index.html