Startup Day Chicago featuring HHS Event Recap

On May 24, Healthbox hosted Startup Day Chicago featuring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with support from MATTER, 7wire Ventures, Pritzker Group, and Sandbox Industries. The event featured representatives from HHS with the goal of bridging the gap between federal health agencies and startups across the country.

When we heard that HHS was traveling to major healthcare hubs across the country to make government resources more accessible and actionable to startups, we quickly raised our hands to make sure Chicago, a headquarters for over 90 coworking spaces and incubators, ranked as the #1 U.S. metro area generating greatest return for investors, and a central hub for innovation in the Midwest, was added to the tour map. Prior to the Chicago event, Startup Days was hosted in Washington D.C., Boston, and Nashville, and is headed to Seattle next.

Startup Day Chicago was structured to give equal representation to departments within HHS and healthcare startups, featuring government presenters in the morning and pitch companies with ties to the regional community in the afternoon. Throughout these presentations, common themes of collaboration, communication, and participation emerged as both groups proposed a call to action to work together in solving the biggest problems in healthcare. At the sold-out event, nearly half of the audience consisted of entrepreneurs and startup companies, showing the excitement and energy in this environment to learn, work, and grow together rather than in silos.

William Brady, Associate Deputy Secretary of HHS, and Ed Simcox, Acting Chief Technology Officer of HHS, kicked off the day introducing the department’s wide breadth of reach. These talks set the tone for the day, providing an overview of existing opportunities and the potential for growth and partnership. Acknowledging that the bureaucratic process may be difficult to navigate, agency speakers asked for open feedback that they could take back with them to help reduce perceived barriers to entry as much as possible.

Following opening presentations, representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Indian Health Service (IHS) took the floor to delve deeper into each agency and the opportunities for innovation within each one.

  • CMS identified its strategic goals for 2018 as “patients over paperwork,” a focus on eliminating the opioid epidemic, and interoperability.
  • ONC called for a higher level of community engagement in order to help achieve broader adoption of healthcare technology, particularly in the use of data and interoperability between systems.
  • NIH used the Startup Day platform to dispel the notion that their funding is limited to federal research. In fact, the majority of what the NIH does is support non-federal scientist research; SBIR/STTR grants, for example, are available specifically for small businesses to apply, with the NIH serving as a matchmaker to outside organizations for further development and scale.
  • IHS posed an ask to digital health companies for help in assessing the value of its grandfathered EHR, the Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS).

Overall, the main takeaway from the morning was that the government has been doing things the same way for a long time and while it has benefitted enormously from its existing processes and technology, the government needs to embrace innovation from the private sector.

Emphasizing the fact that the government can be accessible and the need for startup involvement in its transition to innovation, Allen Shipes, Managing Director of Bidspeed , spoke next to offer his insights on how to successfully navigate government processes. “The government wants to do business with you twice as bad as you want to do business with them,” he said, but “90% of the work is navigating the process.” Agencies are just as tied to their processes as startups and so it is equally important for startups to give the government a path to access them by participating in their initiatives as it is for the government to follow the provided path – there is no option for government agencies to give companies money just because they like them, as much as they would want to.

After a networking lunch that allowed attendees to further engage with agency representatives, attendees reconvened to watch six company pitches from RedoxPhysIQLivongoApervitaBehaveCare, and Collective Medical. This afternoon session gave startups a unique platform to share their solutions with key leaders in government agencies that they might be looking to partner with in the future. Agency speakers directly engaged with the presenters through a Q&A session to learn more about their solutions and the unique challenges startups face.

To close out the day, Healthbox President Neil Patel echoed the agency representatives’ call for open feedback, particularly as HHS continues to partner with organizations like Healthbox at similar events. Drawing from the key themes from Startup Day Chicago, Healthbox continues to strive towards the goal of collaborating across innovation hubs, emphasizing transparency between organizations, and helping startups and government agencies to work in tandem to solve our industry’s pain points.

View more event photos on the Healthbox Facebook page.

Startup Day Chicago featuring HHS Event Recap


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