Federal Agency Using Prizes and Competitions to Improve Health IT

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration, a big fan of contests, on Wednesday announced a “bold new program” that centers on prizes and competitions to “spur innovation” in health information technology.

“This landmark initiative is the first Administration-wide program using prizes and challenges to advance an agency’s mission,” said the news release from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). ONC is part of the Health and Human Services Department.

The program, called “Investing in Innovations,” was made possible by the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January. The law “invests in innovation through research and development and seeks to improve the competitiveness of the United States,” ONC said.

To get the competition rolling, ONC said it has awarded nearly $5 million to the Capital Consulting Corporation and Health 2.0 LLC. Those two companies will analyze new innovations, helping ONC and other HHS agencies “better understand these developments,” the news release said.

“Through the i2 Initiative, ONC is directly supporting innovation in health IT to accelerate the nation’s progress toward a high-performing, adaptive health care system,” said Wil Yu, the special assistant for innovations within ONC.

The Obama administration encourages programs involving prizes and challenges, because they attract innovators from all walks of life but reward only the best work. ONC says the lure of prizes and competitions allows a more rapid response to issues that are difficult to address with more traditional funding.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an “Apps for the Environment” challenge.

The challenge invites the IT community to create applications that help people make “informed decisions about environmental issues that can affect their health,” the news release said.  Students and software developers across the U.S are invited to develop and submit an app.

Winners will receive recognition from EPA on the agency’s website and at an event in Washington in the fall, where they’ll be able to present their apps to senior EPA officials and other interested parties.

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