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Sparking Innovation: HHS Entrepreneurs-In-Residence Program

Powerful things happen when you bring innovators from across the Department together with outside talent through the HHS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program.

Powerful things happen when you bring innovators from across the Department together with outside talent through the HHS Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) program. The EIR program recruits external talent with special skill sets to join internal project teams for 13-month employment experiences focused on new solutions for tough challenges.

Take for example a team from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that wanted to modernize the paper-based tracking system for the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. This is the system that tracks the organs that are procured for transplants, and despite the highly complex nature of the process, it was still a paper-based system. Through the EIR program, the HRSA team brought on David Cartier, a former supply chain logistics expert from the United Parcel Service for a little over a year, to tackle the issue. Within six months, the team rolled out a digital solution to the paper-based processing model, a first prototype (including a tablet, scanner and hand-held printer) and started testing it at organ procurement sites across the country.

The prototype substantially reduced the amount of time required to verify handwritten labels. Most profoundly, by the end of the pilot, the doctors and nurses who had been participating just didn’t want to go back to the old way of doing things. This project is now being scaled for broader impact.

The EIR program was started with the recognition that we don’t always have the answers, and that new thinking and expertise can help us develop sustainable solutions. For internal teams working in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Administration for Children and Families, who have been part of EIR program, it has offered them a missing asset. They were able to explore new ways to help to remove barriers, and gain the “know-how,” to complete projects better, faster, and cheaper relative to “business as usual.” Previous and current entrepreneurs have brought distinct skills and thinking in design, engineering, lean-startup methodologies, software development and much more.

Entrepreneurs wanted.

Entrepreneurs are attracted to the program because they see it as a way to use their skills to solve an interesting challenge in public service. When they accept a position, they have access to the highest levels of HHS leadership and they join an extensive network of internal and external innovators affiliated with HHS IDEA Lab. Given time is short EIRs ask questions, push boundaries, and can catalyze change in organizations that desperately need (and want) new perspectives. The experience gives EIRs better insights into big problems, a good understanding of federal service, and a stronger basis to carry on their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Since 2012, 13 teams have participated in the program from nine agencies across the Department, including a total of 61 career HHS staff and 15 EIRs. Not all projects culminate in dramatic change, but EIRs do provide every project a fresh look and a challenge to the status quo. As a result, more of our programs at HHS are taking advantage of innovative approaches to deliver impact for the American people. 

HHS IDEA Lab is recruiting for three entrepreneurial individuals who want to complete a tour of duty in government and apply their talents to benefit the public good. Learn more and consider applying.

Learn how the HHS Entrepreneurs-In-Resident Program in the @HHSIDEALab is sparking innovation:


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