CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--Speaking at the inaugural eHealth Innovation Conference on March 15, Wil Yu, special assistant of innovations and research for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), explained that promoting private sector innovation is one of his responsibilities.
“The U.S. has one of the best healthcare systems in the world,” he said. “At the same time, we face significant challenges.” Those include inconsistent measuring of outcomes, information not routinely exchanged, care not always coordinated and competing incentives that often frustrate the best intentions of care providers.
Chronic disease rates are unacceptable and there are rising cost issues, he said. “We’re seeing significant changes within the policies and perceptions of how care is delivered in this country. We’re moving to a system that incentivizes value.” That’s a good thing, he said, but doesn’t come lightly and does require significant participation from all stakeholders. “At the same time, it assumes a certain level of innovation is taking place.” In fact, Yu said the U.S. government has engaged in policymaking that assumes a certain level of changes on the care side as well as on the technology side.
A certain infrastructure is needed to support the ecosystem, he said, but that infrastructure exists in very limited fashion and isn’t widely accessible. “A great deal of work needs to be done to realize the dream of care delivery innovation.”
Yu’s team within the ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is trying to promote the development of an infrastructure that will drive many of their programs and activities. Many great ideas assume that infrastructure already exists, he said, but “that’s not something you can take for granted.”
Technology is adopted in a very specific fashion, Yu said, which is why active engagement between various stakeholders is needed. New technologies need to go through several phases of refinement, which “doesn’t exist by itself. It needs active engagement from the adoption community—from those who invest in those technologies.”
That refinement takes place naturally, Yu said. “But, it is a question of development and diffusion over a multi-decade period or one that can be facilitated and supported by all stakeholders. We’re trying to catalyze the process. It is a very intensive process that is not without significant risks.”
Connecting innovators, investors, adopters and other stakeholders will help get to the data collection required to promote new technologies. That includes the technologies that will power accountable care organizations, analytics, population management and “the promise of incentivizing value rather than volume.”