• Ideas

At the IDEA Lab, we are about action, in fact, that’s what the “A” in IDEA stands for. We want people to not only understand the innovative and experimentation process, but to actually act on their ideas and experiment. On this page you will find a list of  the six pathways we offer people looking to get involved with the HHS IDEA Lab and IDEA Lab sponsored projects.

Six Pathways for Innovation

The HHS IDEA Lab currently offers six pathways for innovation. Each pathway provides different tools and resources for experimentation and problem solving. Some of them run along a defined timeline. Others are ongoing efforts that you can inquire about. We are constantly iterating on these to refine how we meet the needs of the Department and the employees of HHS and beyond.

HHS Innovates

Celebrating HHS Trailblazers. Launched in 2010, HHS Innovates, developed as part of HHS’s Open Government efforts, identifies and celebrates internal innovation by our employees.

HHS Innovates is aimed at building a culture of innovation at the Department through facilitating the exchange of innovative ideas.  This contest recognizes and rewards good ideas but also to help promote them across the Department. To date, HHS employees have submitted nominations of innovations for nearly 500 exciting new staff-driven innovations, and our employees have cast over 60,000 votes during the community-voting phase.

Timeline: Thanks for your entries! The deadline to submit for an HHS Innovates Award was February 28. We are currently reviewing submissions.

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HHS Entrepreneurs

Pairing Internal Ideas with External Expertise. Established in 2012, HHS Entrepreneurs was the model for the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program. HHS has worked to attract entrepreneurial talent to create a culture that supports intelligent risk-taking and accelerates innovation. This pathway partners federal staff working on high-risk, high-reward projects with external entrepreneurs for a 12-month fellowship.

The first cohort’s group of six entrepreneurs addressed problems from areas across health care and government ranging from the nation’s organ transplant system to the development of electronic clinical quality measures. These projects resulted in increased efficiencies, cost and time savings, and innovative solutions to pressing problems. Now in its second cohort, this pathway has brought on board a total of 10 entrepreneurs on 9 projects, across six different Operating and Staff Divisions.

Timeline: Now accepting applications through March 28th.

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HHS Innovates

Solving Shared Problems Through Partnerships. First established in 2012, the Innovator-in-Residence Program brings new ideas and expertise into HHS programs through collaboration between the Department of Health and Human Services and private sector not-for-profit organizations.

The HHS Innovator-in-Residence is a partnership in which private, not-for-profit organizations sponsor a position to be filled by an individual with an entrepreneurial and innovative background to work on a problem of common interest to HHS and the partner organization. The first HHS Innovator-in- Residence, sponsored by the West Health Institute, helped develop and release the first set of standards for Blue Button data sharing.  There are currently two HHS Innovator-in-Residence partnerships, one with the West Health Institute, focusing on patient engagement, and one with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, focusing on patient data matching.

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HHS Ignite

Incubating New Ideas. HHS Ignite catalyzes early-stage project ideas that can be completed within very compressed time frames. Teams selected into HHS Ignite are guaranteed an appropriate amount of their time to complete the project. By exposing teams to a network of innovators and equipping them with the methodologies and tools used by successful startup companies, HHS Ignite provides a space in which small teams can try something new in a startup environment.

Timeline: Now accepting funding proposals through March 28th.

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HHS Ventures

Accelerating Proven Concepts. HHS Ventures gives Department employees the opportunity to take their ideas to the next level of implementation. Selected from a pool of previously proven concepts, HHS Ventures gives teams a “Phase II” opportunity to continue development of their data-proven projects for up to 9 months with a budget up to $50,000. Eligibility to apply for HHS Ventures support is limited.

Timeline: Now accepting funding proposals through March 28th.

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HHS Competes

New Approaches to Problem Solving. HHS Competes is a fresh approach to solving problems, including implementing new methodologies and mechanisms for spurring innovation, helping agencies to advance their core missions, and providing new acquisition methods.  Driven by the America COMPETES Act signed by President Obama in 2011, HHS Competes seeks to make the challenges faced by government and industry transparent by enabling participation from innovators both within and outside of government.

To date, every operating and staff division of HHS has participated in a challenge or competition, resulting in over 100 challenges, 2 million dollars in prizes and the formulation of many novel solutions to address complex problems.

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IDEA Lab Sponsored Projects

Each of the above Pathways provides an environment for experimentation resulting in more than 100 projects that tackle some of the most complex problems in health, health care, human services, and government. In addition to the projects supported through these six Pathways, there are ongoing projects that have been identified and sponsored by the HHS IDEA Lab. These projects include:

HHS Connects

Working Towards the Frictionless Exchange of Ideas. HHS Connects links people internal and external to the Department with resources and ideas to increase the likelihood of serendipitous collisions, resource sharing and collaboration on multiple levels.  HHS Connects has a number of platforms to support increased communication and collaboration and none have been more successful than the implementation and adoption of our internal, cross-Department collaboration platform in 2012. To date, there are over 17,000 HHS employees connecting and collaborating virtually across every Operating and Staff Division. In addition to the cross-Department collaboration platform, the Department revised its social media policy to give HHS agencies easier access to tools that will increase public engagement resulting in a more transparent government.

Learn More | HHS Yammer Network (for employees of the Dep’t)

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HHS Health Data Initiative

Liberating Data for Health Care Transformation. The Health Data Initiative (HDI) is the movement established in 2010 within HHS operating and staff divisions to make health data openly available, disseminate the data broadly across the health and human services ecosystem, and continuously educate internal and external participants about the value of data.  The mission of the initiative is to improve health, health care, and the delivery of human services by harnessing the power of data and fostering a culture of innovative uses of data in public and private sector institutions, communities, research groups and policy making arenas.

Over the past three years, the default setting for data at HHS has changed from closed to open. This has resulted in the launch of an all new HealthData.gov in 2012, the liberation of over 1,000 data sets to date, and more entrepreneurs solving health care problems than ever before.  In October, the Health Data Initiative released the first-ever open data strategy and execution plan, which details five data-driven goals for the initiative.

Learn More | Related Blog Posts | HealthData.gov

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