HHS CTO Discusses Agency’s Approach to Innovation


What does The Weather Channel have to do with the Department of Health & Human Services?

Well nothing directly, but TWC was an innovation that resulted from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration making public its mountain of weather data more than 30 years ago.


HHS is attempting to emulate NOAA’s approach to data as part of the 18-month-old Health Data Initiative, where the agency is trying to release as much as data as possible and make it easier for private sector innovators to turn it into next generation of products and services, HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park told FedScoop.

Park said the initiative is already providing ways to improve healthcare, help employers promote wellness and allow government officials make better decisions.

“It’s really an extraordinary time to be at HHS,” Park says.

Park also said the agency is leveraging challenges and contests both inside and outside the agency to spur innovation. There have been more than 25 public contests to date and, in the coming months, the agency is looking to increase the amount and scope of the challenges.

The challenges are also working internally, he said. Each quarter, employees can nominate fellow employees doing innovative work. The projects are then put to an employee vote and the top vote-getters are presented to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who selects a winner or winners. Those people then get a cash prize and are honored at an agency event.


“It’s an exciting way to increase collaboration and share the great ways people are using information technology,” Park said.

Learn more about innovation at HHS and hear Park speak at FedScoop’s FedTalks 2011 on October 11 at the Warner Theater.

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