4. Featured Participation and Collaboration Activities
Furthering our ability to engage HHS stakeholders has been a major thrust of HHS’s participation and collaboration activities. An important focus of the Department’s activities has centered on the promotion of a new Congressionally-authorized policy tool – the prize & challenge mechanism – through which federal agencies can provide incentives to external stakeholders to assist in developing, testing, and implementing creative solutions to pressing problems
In addition, HHS has sought to leverage new social media technologies, such as text messaging, content syndication, twitter feeds, and ideation tools to better engage our partners. These efforts have particularly helped to improve HHS’s ability to connect with and provide useful information to stakeholders. Described below are updates on three exciting newly launched activities: product safety text messaging pilot; social media tools for tobacco regulations; and the tobacco content syndication pilot.
Through the coordinating efforts of its Innovation Council, HHS has embraced the notion of engaging HHS stakeholders through prize and challenge competitions to help the Department in solving its most pressing problems. To date, HHS has launched or participated in approximately 20 challenge contests, all of which are available to the public through the Challege.Gov site at http://challenge.gov/HHS. These contests have helped to identify and recognize new approaches to program recruitment; lead to the development of inspirational videos about real-life confrontations with drug abuse and addiction; inspire communication materials about new approaches to healthy living; promote the development of mobile and wireless applications that help consumers find the best care providers, and foster the development of prototype web and mobile communication technology applications to enable communities’ use of population data for cancer prevention and control. In many of these cases, HHS has been able to gather novel approaches that it did not have the capacity to develop internally.
The Innovation Council is actively developing guidance and educational materials for HHS program managers who wish to engage the public and other stakeholders in helping the Department to solve mission-relevant problems. Simultaneously, the Council is working with the HHS Office of General Council to clarify and resolve important legal and policy issues related to the development and execution of challenges.
The MedWatch Mobile Pilot began March 11, 2010 and was completed October 14, 2010. The purpose of the project was to determine the acceptability by healthcare professionals, patients, and other members of the public of using text messaging to receive MedWatch Safety Alerts. The content of the text messages consisted of alerts that provided timely new safety information on human drugs, medical devices, vaccines and other biologics, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. The alerts contained actionable information that may have impacted both treatment and diagnostic choices for healthcare professionals and patients.
The pilot was evaluated by presenting text messaging subscribers with a series of questions to determine the effectiveness and usefulness of the messages as well as users’ satisfaction and message delivery preference.
Over 1,900 individuals subscribed during the pilot; however, there were few respondents to the evaluation questions. Although a large majority of respondents were satisfied with the pilot, additional studies are needed to evaluate if text messaging would be widely preferred among the target audiences.
The Food and Drug Administration is using social media tools to increase awareness and engage stakeholders about new tobacco control regulations. On June 22, 2010 the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) launched the Break the Chain of Tobacco Addition campaign to raise the awareness of tobacco retailers on the front lines of this issue as well as consumers, the tobacco industry, and community tobacco control advocates about new tobacco product regulations and their purpose. The campaign features both traditional campaign materials and open government technologies to maximize the impact of the campaign with our audiences and better reach our communication objectives. The tools are notable because they provide portable content, encourage participation, leverage networks, and provide information in multiple formats.
The campaign has been successful in meeting FDA’s primary communication goals. For instance, in a few months, FDA received almost 50,000 visits to the website. The agency also found that almost 90% of the text messaging subscribers were satisfied or very satisfied with our text messaging project. Likewise, about 88% of the subscribers thought the messages were effective or very effective in meeting their needs. The campaign had almost 4,000 Twitter subscribers. This campaign is continuing and FDA is working on making data-driven enhancements to the social media components and developing deeper evaluation strategies to assess usability, content effectiveness and impact.
FDA also launched a pilot content syndication project last year in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal was to more widely disseminate important health and regulation information while delivering resource-strapped partners and health groups free, timely, relevant, and accurate web content. Partners benefit as they can now provide free tobacco-related web content and open up resources for other efforts.
FDA invested in content syndication to broadly share online health information and meet growing audience demand for up-to-date reliable health-related content across the web. Syndication allows multiple partners to subscribe to and automatically display up-to-date content on their webpages. The groups providing this content benefit by strategically reaching new audiences and increasing exposure to and reach of messages. The websites displaying syndicated content benefit by utilizing a low-cost, simple way to add reliable content without losing visitors by linking to outside websites. In addition, syndication helps meet the Open Government Initiative by improving health information dissemination by collaborating to improve reach, access and trust of health messages and allowing for strategic placement of content on partner websites.
Bringing this technology to the FDA requires new technology and CDC and FDA are working to develop and implement business requirements, technologies and research requirements. In addition to the technological components of the project, both agencies are working to develop a data-driven strategy for developing, disseminating and evaluating the content used in the syndication project.
In response to a physician’s observation at a public hearing that there was no easy, secure way for him to send a patient’s information from his electronic health record software application to another doctor’s electronic health record software application, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Direct Project – an initiative to develop a way to help health care providers send electronic information to each other in a way that is both secure and extremely easy to do. HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT decided to execute this project via an open innovation approach that delivered spectacular results. As opposed to convening a wholly internal team to solve the problem, HHS instead posed the problem as a public challenge, launched in March 2010, and invited all willing participants to join a Direct Project Collaborative that would work to develop an answer to the problem via a public wikispace and forums, open and visible to all. Over 60 companies and organizations joined the collaborative. In three months, they hammered out a solution: a protocol for secure health care email over the Internet. The Collaborative executed the first production transactions using this protocol in January 2011. By March 2011, nearly 70 companies representing over 90% of the U.S. electronic health record market had committed to enabling their products to interact with others using the Direct email protocol.