Looking Back on a Busy Year as HHS CTO

Photo of HHS Chief Technology Officer, Bruce Greenstein


By: Bruce Greenstein, HHS Chief Technology Officer

After over a year proudly serving as Chief Technology Officer at HHS, I have accepted an offer to move back to the private sector.

Working at the intersection of data, innovation, and technology, the Office of the CTO is tasked with improving business processes within the Department. Additionally, we test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.

This year HHS Secretary Azar outlined his top priorities, which included combatting the opioid crisis, reducing the cost of healthcare, and ushering in a value-based system. Our initiatives have specifically tackled those priorities.

We recognized that the opioid crisis was in part a data problem. In organizing the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon, we focused on connecting data to help HHS and local entities gain insight into this complex health challenge. The event attracted teams from corporate heavyweights, students from Harvard and MIT, and small startups across the nation with the mission to create data-driven solutions addressing the opioid epidemic.

We believe healthcare is costly in part because of a lack of innovative, cheaper medical solutions. No group knows this better than chronic kidney disease patients, where dialysis treatment has barely changed in decades. That is why we launched KidneyX, an accelerator that addresses the need for innovation in the treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of chronic kidney disease. KidneyX is a public-private partnership with the American Society of Nephrology that will soon announce an application and encourage innovators to participate. We’re excited to see more entrepreneurs build devices and solutions for a disease that affects millions of Americans. We are thankful for the dedicated health professionals at HHS and ASN who will continue to drive this work until patients with chronic kidney disease see the improvements they deserve.

Photo of Secretary Alex Azar and Bruce Greenstein

Secretary Alex Azar and Bruce Greenstein

The transformation to a value-based healthcare system necessitates better data sharing and analysis to determine the quality of care. At a department as large as HHS, effective data sharing can be challenging. The Enterprise Data Initiative was launched to collect and disseminate data, publishing 1,900 data sets on HealthData.gov to date. Opening data is not enough by itself, which is why the Office of the CTO encourages insightful inter-agency data analysis. We did exactly this between the CDC and CMS, successfully bridging their data divide to produce a robust analysis of infant mortality.

Startup Day at HHS illustrated the value of opening our doors to small teams and entrepreneurs, not just large incumbents. In the Office of the CTO, we believe that attracting more entrepreneurs to focus on federal problems is good for the government. Too many barriers have limited the number of people seeking to innovate in the healthcare space. At Startup Day, early-stage companies gained valuable access to top HHS leadership along with data sets to launch new ventures.

Photo of the Global Digital Health Partnership

Meeting with the Global Digital Health Partnership

HHS is not the only health agency focused on transitioning to value-based care. Other nations have similar initiatives, which is why we helped to found the Global Digital Health Partnership, a consortium of governments from around the world dedicated to sharing digital health practices. As co-chair, I created a framework for how the GDHP as a unified body can demand health technology standards critical to improving healthcare.

In weighing the decision to leave, I had the comfort of knowing that so much has been accomplished in the Office of the CTO. Over the past year, these initiatives–along with the top-notch technology consulting we provide throughout the Department–worked to usher in a culture that believes data sharing, innovative design, and technology are critical to achieving Secretary Azar’s priorities.

Serving this department has been an honor and privilege for which I am incredibly grateful. The people I have met and the team that has supported our efforts have been nothing short of stellar. I’m excited about the next chapter and look forward to bringing innovation to an area of healthcare that is long overdue for change. I wish everyone at HHS continued success on our important mission.