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Leaders from BARDA, CMS, DOD and VA discuss the evolution of intergovernmental health collaborations at the iEX 2022 conference.

Health agencies will prioritize interagency partnerships in 2023 to enable faster innovation and better meet public needs, according to feedback from federal health IT leaders at the 2022 VHA Innovation Experience (iEX) conference this week.

“Over the past two years, as we think about meaningful innovation – beyond just incremental innovation – is the idea that value is dynamic and something that exists across multiple stakeholders. , patients, providers, and even the systems that care for them,” Ryan Vega, general manager of the Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning at VHA, said Thursday at iEX.

Vega said developing an ecosystem with government-industry partnerships is key to driving value and innovation. COVID-19 has prompted federal agencies to work across government to accelerate innovation. Now the government hopes to shorten the timeline for all healthcare innovations and iterate quickly.

“The ability to share those risks, the ability to leverage the talent and the human and labor capital that exists across, actually allows us to get better solutions. When you have more diverse opinions, when you have more of diversity of thought and challenge, you get a better product, and that product will bring more value to the end user than if you try to go it alone,” Vega said.

Sandeep Patel, director of BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation and Enterprise (DRIVe), said healthcare agencies need to be able to meet patients where they are in order to drive innovation. at the speed of demand.

“It’s critical to respond. And I think developing those kinds of partnerships where you share capabilities together, I think that’s going to be critical,” Patel added.

Earlier this year, VHA announced a new collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration to streamline testing methods for new products, such as medical devices.

By guiding innovators through the FDA regulatory process, the collaboration will be a “huge catalyst,” especially for innovators who don’t have access to a lot of capital or experience in the federal development space.

“It will help you know exactly what you need to do to show that your device is safe and effective,” said Beth Ripley, deputy director of VHA in the Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning. “We will work on this together in this collaboration. What this will do is keep you from meandering down a path trying to find your way to whatever the FDA might need. It’ll put you on the right track, so you’ll save time and money.

The Department of Defense is also working with VA to support the transition from military to veteran, particularly from a health perspective. Nathanael Higgins, program manager for DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit, said his team made a conscious effort to identify areas of alignment with VA to create synergies.

“Instead of wasting investments in the same field, let me capture what you’ve done and recreate it and vice versa,” Higgins said. “From there, some great partnerships were formed. We shared technologies, ranging from drones that can deliver blood supplies and prescriptions to augmented reality.

Dora Hughes, Marketing Director of the CMS Innovation Center, said the end user’s experience and needs should be at the heart of the collaboration, especially when it comes to healthcare innovation.

“We also listen to our beneficiaries and raise the voice of patients to understand… the beneficiary and the end user – what are their values ​​and what do they think? How do we integrate this objective into our decision-making? It’s a component of decision-making,” Hughes said.

As agencies place greater emphasis on end users and patients, the social determinants of health (SDH) are helping to identify new gaps. Hughes said SDOH is a new area of ​​CMS exploration to better support underserved communities. Ripley said that in the future, VA will expand its healthcare innovation to create new solutions in the areas of transportation, food security, homelessness and more to better meet the needs of citizens’ health.

“It’s really helped us broaden our thinking about some of the things we can do, as one of the biggest pairs in the country, to support the integration of clinical and community health care,” Hughes said.