Jumpstarting Innovation at HHS: Ignite Launches its Sixth Round with a 3 Day Design Sprint

HHS bootcamp

Teams selected into the HHS Ignite Accelerator learn and apply core design and entrepreneurial principles taught by our partners from the University of Maryland.

The sixth round of HHS Ignite has now officially taken off!

Last week, 13 teams descended on the Hubert Humphrey Building to jumpstart projects addressing important problems or opportunities that affect how the Department ensures the health and well-being of Americans. They are starting their journey in Ignite, the Department’s internal innovation startup program for staff that want to improve the way their program, office, or agency works. Over the next three months, the sixth cohort of Ignite teams will run the gamut of HHS’ broad mission, from improving medical device review, to easing research grant applications processes, to spreading opioid abuse education and interventions, and on and on along other key mandates.

Despite running five rounds of the Ignite program, and already having seen 71 distinct sets of opportunities, personalities and approaches, it is still refreshing and pleasantly surprising to see most teams either wholeheartedly, or at least cautiously, adopt the entrepreneurial mindset and methods taught by our teaching partners from University of Maryland Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Over the three-day-long design sprint, or Boot Camp as we call it, teams learned and applied core design and entrepreneurial principles such as developing empathy through unstructured interviews, synthesis through tools such as journey maps, and ideation and testing through sketches and prototyping. They also gained key aspects of the Lean Startup framework, which guides them through identification of key stakeholders and development and testing of hypotheses surrounding their needs.

Jonathan Bush

Jonathan Bush, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of athenahealth, presents to teams at the Boot Camp.


Continuing our legacy of having powerful guest speakers for Boot Camp, we presented Jonathan Bush, the Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of athenahealth. Jonathan shared important insight into the entrepreneurial thought that initially steered athenahealth’s early strategy and how it stumbled onto its ultimate business model of automating inefficient and repetitive processing of federal health care paper forms. His talk moved to focus on the ways that federal or state government contributes to administrative requirements on providers. And while not everyone in the audience necessarily agreed with his every view, Jonathan’s fiery presentation was instructive (and generous) in exposing his honest frustrations, providing valuable insight on how industry might view the demands of working with government.

Fortunately, one of our teams in this cohort just happens to be addressing an opportunity that intends to reduce those very burdens on physicians as they interact with the single largest payer in our healthcare system, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The intrepid group, led by CMS’ Jon Langmead, is seeking ways to incorporate a variety of physician feedback into policies and/or communications that directly addresses their needs and pains. CMS will actively assess the  means and types of data they are receiving, synthesize the data into useful information, and, create actionable information to better serve providers.

Like the CMS team, Ignite teams expose their passion for making government operate more effectively and efficiently; they are addressing an opportunity with far-reaching potential and should be lauded for the efforts they will put forth as they navigate a complex system in order to make difficult but important change. Over the next three months, teams will be tasked with learning more than they care to about all the players in their ecosystem, where there is common ground, and what kinds of solutions will satisfy which needs and motivations that they uncover along the way. By the end of the Ignite journey, we hope but don’t expect every Ignite team to discover the ultimate solution to their challenge; however, what they learn along the way is most important; the value Ignite teams create almost always comes in unexpected ways, just as it did for Jonathan and athenahealth.

Our 3-Day Boot Camp: Part Training. Part Design Sprint

A photo collage that highlights the boot camp experience

(Clockwise L to R) Boot Camp teams have a breakout session with their Coach; teams work through a design thinking workshop; various rough-and-ready prototyping materials.


The HHS Ignite Accelerator is our 3-month internal innovation startup program. Department staff compete to get in. They bring a problem worth exploring and the Accelerator program provides the opportunity for them to carve out and test one or more solutions to those pressing challenges.

Each round of Ignite begins with a 3-day Boot Camp. Over the past couple weeks we ran Boot Camps for the 23 teams recently selected into the 5th Round of the Ignite Accelerator.

Over the last year or so we’ve been working with a number of agencies that are looking at launching their own versions of Ignite. We’ve been focusing on supporting the efforts at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. While these agencies have either already or will soon be launching their own innovation accelerator program, there have been many others that have expressed interest. (Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, I won’t name them here.)

This blog post can be read generally, but it is written particularly for those other agencies. The goal of this post is to document this part of our journey and serve as a useful starting place for others out there looking to venture in a similar direction.

Teams had to pitch to get in.

In the fall we solicited project ideas from the staff of HHS. We had about 100 initial applications submitted, from which about 50 finalist teams were identified. Starting in December, those Finalist teams received training and support to explore their project idea a bit further. In particular, they were asked to interview their customers to gain a better understanding of the problems and were provided access to IDEA Lab office hours and the network of Ignite alumni. Then in February, all 50 teams pitched to get in. From those pitches, we selected 23 teams. We have much more written up on this blog post which goes over our selection process

(In a fun and visionary parallel program, HRSA ran their own idea incubator program timed to line up with our finalist stage: The 7 HRSA teams selected into their program went through a customer-focused discovery stage. At the end of their 3 months, on their Demo Day, each team pitched for support from their leadership and pitched to get into the HHS Ignite Accelerator.)

Our Boot Camp is partly a training.

The Boot Camp introduces teams to some simple problem solving tools and techniques through lectures and workshops. These tools and techniques go beyond just their particular project and (theoretically) can be used towards any problem they’re facing within their office.

But where training begets knowledge, experience begets wisdom. The best way to grasp the concepts is to apply them. The best way to learn how to swim, after some basic lessons, is to get thrown into the deep end. Plus, there’s a lot to do! We don’t have time to sit in meetings thinking about the right way forward. We must move.

It’s also part design sprint.

Each team leaves with a very early-version prototype and project plan. Those prototypes and plan may change along the way, and infact pivots (so long as they are supported by customer and stakeholder feedback) are encouraged! But we advocate getting to the testing stage quickly.

Teams mapped out their ecosystem, honed the scope of their project, and created “rough and ready” prototypes (those that take less than an hour to create) of solutions to problems they’ve identified. The best prototypes are the ones that can be tested with users. For some, this is a simple website mockup. For others, it’s a revised process workflow.

We have Coaches and Instructors to support the teams.

If you bring smart people into the same space with enough time work and sufficient tools to work with, amazing things happen. That’s one of the basic principles behind any working session, and our Boot Camp is no exception.

We bring 3 types of people together to make our Boot Camp happen: The project teams (of course); they bring the problems and ideas. Lead instructors; they provide the high-level training. And Coaches; they provide individualized guidance to each team.

The teams selected into Ignite.To keep a proper teacher-student ratio, we ran two Boot Camps: Boot Camp ALPHA for half the teams; Boot Camp BRAVO for the other half. Here’s a list of the 23 projects in this Round of the Accelerator.

In our experience, larger teams end up spending more time on consensus building and less time moving forward and just trying things out to see what happens. Ignite is a program that requires teams to move quickly and with agility so as to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. So we ask teams to limit the number of attendees per team to 5. We tell them that the optimal team size is probably 3.

We have a contract with faculty at the University of Maryland’s Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. They’ve been running our Boot Camps since we introduced the concept a couple years ago. Each Boot Camp has been different from the one previous, and this Round is no exception. We worked regularly with them over the last few months to design the agenda and approach.

Each team selected into Ignite is assigned an Innovation Coach. Our Coaches are individuals with some design and/or entrepreneurship experience. Many of them are former participants in the Ignite program. All but one is an HHS employee. That one is Daniel Yi of the Department of Justice which is considering launching their own innovation accelerator program. The job of the coach is just that: To coach. They do not provide (too much) subject matter expertise. They do not make decisions for the team. They do not help the team prototype. They guide, poke, ask, nudge, and shine lights on various paths forward. They reinforce over and over again the basic principles of problem identification, gaining customer empathy, and scoping the goals of a project to be more obtainable within the mere 3 months of the program.

It’s a mix of lectures, workshops, and more.

Many teams enter the boot camp with a general direction but still a fuzzy idea as to what exactly they’re going to do over the 3 months of the Ignite Accelerator. The three days of the Boot Camp offers a huge opportunity to hone in on the particular problem(s) they’d like to solve. (“You can’t boil the ocean in only 3 months!”).

There are two general methodologies that underlie the Boot Camp curriculum: Design Thinking (PDF) and Lean Startup (PDF). We try to avoid the labels since the core principles underlying the methodologies are so similar, but as a short explainer: These are both problem-solving methodologies used by businesses, small and large, to ensure that products and services are developed in a streamlined manner to meet real human needs.

The agenda is a mix of lectures, workshops, feedback sessions, end-user interviews, and time to just work. Day 1 is more structured. Day 2 slightly less so. And the bulk of Day 3 is for the teams to simply work. You can download the full three-day agenda here (PDF). At the end of this third day, each team reports out, presenting their revised project pitch, prototypes, and goals to the other teams.

An important component of the Boot Camp is that of asking questions. Each team is asked over and over again to explain their project direction and justify their path forward. It’s through tough questioning we hope to uncover together the best path forward.

Teams tell us that a primary benefit of the three day Boot Camp is simply the luxury of focusing on their single effort all as a team for a full three days. Beyond the lessons and the access to other innovators from across the Department, simply having the mental space to work uninterrupted provides the opportunity to see things in a deeper light and make true meaningful even transformative progress, rather than simply working through a task list of to-dos through a series of 30 minute meetings.

Teams gave elevator pitches. Literally.

On the morning of Day 3, the teams found themselves “accidentally” in the elevator with HHS CTO Susannah Fox. She politely introduced herself, asked what they were working on, and then casually hit the button to take them to the 8th floor. An elevator pitch ensued. On an actual elevator. It was one of the new things we threw in this time. And it was so literal that it worked!

What Happens After the Boot Camp?

In the end, teams leave with a refined project direction, a deeper understanding of their stakeholders, and at least one prototype to test.

After the Boot Camp ends, the teams are back in their real world. Over the course of the next 3 months, they will be contributing about 50% of their total time towards their project. Through a series of weekly check-ins with their Coach and monthly check-ins with UMD Instructors, the teams will continue to work with their stakeholders and customers to explore their problem area, iterate on possible solutions, and test them in a meaningful way.

This is all building up for the big pitch! On July 14th, the teams will come back to D.C. to present to the world and to HHS Leadership the fruits of their labor: What they did, why they did it, whether or not it worked, and what they want to do next.

Over the last 4 Rounds, we’ve seen 48 teams give that pitch for follow-up funding and support. About two-thirds of projects have received support of some kind. We’ve had one project convince the White House Office of Management and Budget to roll out their effort federal government-wide. Another was recently included in the President’s budget. A handful have received support from our HHS Ventures Fund. Some have been integrated into White House-led projects. And so many others have quietly been getting implemented in their home office.

We look forward to seeing what this cohort of projects can accomplish.

Additional Resources

In case you’d like to dive into more, we’ve posted all slides and information presented to the teams on the following “Materials for Current Ignite Teams” micro-site. In particular, check out the “Boot Camp” tab.

Dear Fellow Innovators – An Open Letter to Those Seeking to Test New Ideas in Gov

As one of the Lead Instructors of the Ignite Accelerator (our internal innovation program), one of our jobs is to get teams excited to dive into their projects but also to set expectations. I sent a note hoping to do both. But this message could really apply to all those out there seeking to think differently and innovate within government. So today, as we kick off the first day of Ignite, and welcome our new teams on this three month journey, we hope this also resonates with those of you out there seeking to improve the way your program, office, or agency works.

Dear Fellow Innovators,

First, let us be among the many who welcome you to the family of innovators, change agents, and idealists who have joined us in the HHS Ignite Accelerator. Like others who came before you, you are here because you noticed a problem or an opportunity that affects how we do our job of ensuring the health and well-being of Americans. You are here because you feel compelled to solve that problem or take that opportunity and because you are willing to invest your time and efforts towards the search for value. Thank you. There is hardly a guarantee or expectation that you will find a solution in the next few months, but you will apply and learn a set of frameworks that will maximize your chances of discovering and validating a real solution to a real problem.

Expect to feel uncertainty and doubt; embrace them.

If it sounds like we are asking you to embark with us on a journey of discovery, and telling you that you are going on an adventure, then you are catching our gist. But in any true adventure, there will be uncertainty and leaps of faith that you’ll need to take. The kind of methodology that we are going to walk you through is a combination of two relatively new schools of entrepreneurial and value-creating thought, but their foundations are rooted in the principles of the scientific method and evolution. That said, our method set is especially counter-intuitive to people who have grown accustomed to some typical models of success in government.

The discovery process is messy and uncomfortable; you should expect and accept ambiguity and confusion as a matter of course.

We will ask you to avoid your own instincts to jump to safe, tidy conclusions, we will make you question your own assumptions, and we will ask you to make sense of many different voices and data points.

Who succeeds?

So, we are asking you to be passionate about solving a problem, to be willing to try a new entrepreneurial management style, and to be open to failure. Sounds great! One unfortunate standard of success in a bureaucracy is to deliver a potentially useless but complete product on time and as expected at the outset; no one can ever argue about a project lead’s competence if the project has met its plans (even if no one cares to use the resulting product). We have found that people who are confident in finding a solution to a problem will work passionately towards that end. Meanwhile, we have seen that pragmatic people have the humility to recognize and quickly accept when they are not on the right track and to switch course. Confidence and humility make a rare and valuable pair of traits because it’s worse to complete a doomed product than it is to keep from building it in the first place. Put cynically, it’s better to spend time validating nascent ideas than it is to waste time and money proving that you’ve been busy.

Your project will challenge you, and we are here to help.

Experiencing 48 project teamsworth of struggles, discoveries, and sometimes successes has taught us to trust a framework and teaching style. It has also taught us to wholeheartedly believe in your ability to take some basic education and coaching and to run wild. We are so humbled to have your engagement and enthusiasm, it really keeps us going. But, we are really here to help you, even when we know you might feel that we are doubting your ideas or jabbing you with unreasonable questions. Ultimately, we can only point to your short-term success as project teams and long-term success as individuals in order to claim any of our own.

Congratulations on making it this far, we are so excited to see what you learn.

With Respect and Gratitude,

Will and your friends at HHS Ignite

The Invent Health Initiative: Invention and Innovation in Emergency Preparedness

Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), opened our Invent Health Town Hall at the end of January with a perspective on innovation that set the tone for the day:

“It is really a lot easier to get to ‘yes’ if you don’t have to go through ‘no’ first.”

The Invent Health initiative is designed to empower the small-scale inventors (the government employee, the nurse, the patient, the computer scientist, the engineer, the designer) by connecting them to resources and to communities that will guide them down avenues of “yes” as they navigate a path toward findingand sharingsolutions to home health and clinical care challenges. Watch Dr. Lurie in the video below as she shares her stories, experiences, and perspectives on health innovation in government. But we also want to hear from you, the inventors and the makers, the builders and the dreamers, as we publish the second in our Invent Health blog series. Tell us a few things:

When has the word “yes” made a difference in how you pursued a project, an idea, or an invention designed to improve your health or someone else’s?  What opportunities exist to innovate in the health care space during emergency situations?  What are some examples that you have seen?

Visit our blog post on Medium to leave us your thoughts. Not sure how to leave a response? Read this.


And tune in below to view Dr. Nicole Lurie’s Invent Health Town Hall talk:

GUEST: Dr. Nicole Lurie,  Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


LOCATION: Invent Health Town Hall, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Washington, D.C.


[1:38] Dr. Nicole Lurie came to ASPR in 2009 and is a champion of innovation at HHS. HHS IDEA Lab Blog

[1:54] “First thing that I was pretty struck with going out to disasters is, as one public health officer said, ‘All of these people came out of the woodwork and we didn’t know they were there.’ Health departments in general have no idea who lives in their community.”

[3:36] “Fast forward to now, we have a system we just did it in Flint, where within a couple hours of request, CMS is a response agency, and it now makes available in real time, sets up a password protected Web site, has the names and addresses of everybody who’s got water-dependent durable medical equipment and people have gone and knocked on the doors of all of those people, like people who have dialysis and at home and people who have tube feeds, and made sure that they have safe water.”   Flint, Michigan Water Crisis (Wikipedia) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

[4:59] “How do we make it so that your equipment sends a signal [in the event of an emergency]?”

[5:36] “We then learned that every device manufacturer has it’s own source code and so you can’t have a universal device. We had to solve that problem. We went out to NIST. National Institute of Standards and Technology. And we explained to them what the problem was, they got behind it. And they just voted on a data standard two weeks ago for durable medical equipment….By the end of the year we ought to have an international standard for how these devices transmit.”

[6:28] Dr. Lurie talks about the 2013 idea challenge for emergency response which was designed to help communities support patients who depend on durable medical equipment (DME), such as oxygen concentrators and portable ventilators, during emergencies. The challenge sought inventive ideas on how to create a system that, in emergencies, could signal the location and status of the life-sustaining equipment. With this information, patients and caregivers can prepare and respond to prevent low batteries in emergencies.

[6:52] “Two years after I sponsored this competition, I got a letter in the mail from a guy named David Li and he said, ‘Hi, my name is David Li, I’m a 16 year old student in Long Island and two years ago I entered your competition, and my dad had to open an account for me because I wasn’t 18, and I won $2,000. And I took that money and I bought a bunch of other equipment, and I set up a prototype device and I’ve tested it in my community, I have a patent pending, here’s my publication, I want to tell you about it.’” We in the HHS IDEA Lab love this story and shared it with our colleagues at the Smithsonian who invited me to speak at the kick-off of their prize competition focused on young inventors. See: Kid Inventors Focus on Health (HHS IDEA Lab)

[8:00] My Preparedness Story: Staying Healthy & Resilient” Video Challenge (

[8:18] ASPR Blog: What would you do if you knew and HHS emPOWER Map (

How was HRSA’s Innovation Accelerator Pilot? Here’s A Preliminary Recap.

In case you missed it, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has been running a pilot innovation accelerator of their own called the HRSA IdeaSpring. Modeled after the HHS Ignite Accelerator and building on a HRSA innovation blueprint put forth by Senior staff within the agency, the IdeaSpring is a competitive internal program to help HRSA staff take their ideas from conception to early-stage prototype. The HRSA IdeaSpring is being led by 6 HRSA staff going through a mid-level leadership training

photo of the HRSA IdeaSpring's program team

IdeaSpring’s program team (from L to R): Desha Anderson, Katrina Jones, Lennie Green, Candace Webb, Erica Grover, and Terri’ Richards.

program. These sensational six are: Terri’ Richards, Candace Webb, Erica Grover, Katrina Jones, Lennwood (Lennie) Green, and Desha Anderson. The HRSA IdeaSpring just wrapped up their pilot round with their very own Demo Day. We emailed the team a few questions and asked them to write up their collective responses to share out some of their experiences and to give us a sense as to what’s next.

What’s the short history of how you all came about launching your own internal accelerator program?

The HRSA IdeaSpring team participants are part of the 2015 HRSA Mid-level Leadership Development Program. As a part of our leadership curriculum, we are engaged in an action learning project. Our team sponsors, along with HRSA’s leadership, challenged our team with researching and developing initiatives that encourage and reward employee engagement, creativity and innovation at HRSA. This led to us attending the Summer 2015 HHS Ignite Boot Camp, connecting and partnering with the HHS IDEA lab, and developing HRSA’s version of an accelerator program we call the HRSA IdeaSpring.

Tell us a little bit about the HRSA Idea Spring, it’s design and the overall goal of the program.

The HRSA IdeaSpring is a two and a half month program pairing teams with the resources to grow their ideas for improvement of HRSA products, services, and processes. Like the HHS Ignite Accelerator, the IdeaSpring provides its teams with the tools to explore their ideas by introducing concepts such as design thinking and lean startup, as well as methodologies for customer discovery, problem identification, and the testing of their ideas.

Before launching, did you have a definition of success? What were you trying to test / accomplish with this first round? (And do you think you accomplished this?)

Quite honestly, with aggressive time commitments and an unorthodox approach to problem solving in government, the HRSA IdeaSpring team was hopeful in getting just one team to apply.  However, the interest and responses we received well surpassed our expectations: The HRSA IdeaSpring Pilot Program received 23 applications from teams across HRSA with a wide range of project ideas. Through the pilot we hoped to test and establish the HRSA IdeaSpring as a means to engage HRSA employees in a creative problem-solving process.  The hope was that even if the idea didn’t take off, the participants would still walk away with new knowledge and skills to empower them to further HRSA’s mission and vision. This pilot emphasized the fact that there are so many great ideas within HRSA, and people are hungry for the time and space to dedicate to creative problem solving.  This underscores the value of our agency’s leadership and commitment to innovation.  On February 24th we hosted the first HRSA IdeaSpring Demo Day. It was incredible! Our seven teams pitched their ideas to six panelists who selected one team to move on to the HHS Ignite Accelerator program.  (see details below).  

Give us some of the particulars, some of the mechanics of pullings this off – How many people are devoted to running the Idea Spring? What percent of their time is going towards this?

The Pilot Program was implemented by a team of six people, with approximately 20% of each person’s time dedicated to the HRSA IdeaSpring.

Walk us through some of the programmatic metrics: How many HRSA projects got submitted? How many got in? How much money did you put towards the program?

We launched the HRSA IdeaSpring application in October 2015. An astounding 23 teams submitted applications that represented project ideas from across the Agency. Due to limited capacity of both our teams and mentors, we were only able to accept seven of those teams to participate in the pilot round of the HRSA IdeaSpring. We were rather optimistic in stating there would be no costs involved in implementing the HRSA IdeaSpring pilot program.  However, that is one of our lessons learned throughout this process.  With a bit of funds, we are certain the HRSA IdeaSpring would have been able to support more project ideas, beef up our technology to improve remote participation among our HRSA colleagues out in the field, and possibly hire a staff to coordinate the program.

What were the biggest challenges with this round – was there one or two things that you really wanted to make work but weren’t able to?

We definitely feel that this pilot program was a huge success. Given the success of the program we did experience some challenges. Our two biggest challenges were the short amount of time we had to coordinate the program and not being able to fully engage our remote participants. At times it felt like we were scrambling to find resources to meet the needs of the participants and mentors.  In addition, we experienced some technical glitches during our Demo Day.   Now that we’ve gone through a whole round, we will better be able to anticipate the need for resources, support, communication, and advance testing of technology. It was evident during the Boot Camp that we struggled with catering to our remote participants.  We had a few people that were not able to attend the two-day Boot Camp in-person.  We attempted to bring them into the training using a conference line and Adobe Connect.  It was difficult to make them feel included in all activities and we struggled a bit with the audio and video feeds.  These are a few items that we will revisit in planning future iterations of the HRSA IdeaSpring.

And then what’s the biggest success, the biggest surprise?

The biggest success has been the level of support and interest we’ve seen in coordinating the program. We were definitely surprised by the level of interest and support shown by all HRSA staff and management. In addition, we were thrilled to have this opportunity to provide a platform for HRSA employees to showcase their ideas and creativity and offer them the  opportunity to explore new methodologies for problem-solving.  HRSA employees have so many awesome ideas to improve efficiencies and further the mission of the Agency.  They just need the time, space, and support to pursue those ideas.

There are others across HHS and indeed the federal government looking to launch similar programs. What practical insights (pick 3) would you offer those individuals based upon your experience with the HRSA Idea Spring?

  1. Just do it! Your employees deserve it!
  2. Spend time building support within your agency.  Fostering buy-in (at all levels) and identifying mutual benefits are essential to sustaining support throughout.  
  3. Identify dedicated staff to lead and coordinate the program.

Now, tell us about your first Demo Day. Results for those who didn’t get to follow along?  How do you think it went?

We are still celebrating the success of our first Demo Day. Our two speakers, Jim Macrae, HRSA’s Acting Administrator, and  Susannah Fox, HHS’s Chief of Technology, discussed the importance of encouraging innovation in government. Seven teams enjoyed sharing their ideas with six panelists who were high-level influencers. The teams did an amazing job pitching their ideas. They each had only four minutes to sell their idea! One team, the Improving Utilization of Data in Organ Transplant Decision-Making team, was selected to move onto the HHS Ignite Accelerator. Another team, the HRSA Public Health Learning Opportunities team, won the online Viewers’ Choice Award. All seven teams advanced the mission of HRSA by pursuing their ideas and inspired their colleagues to do the same. We’re excited that our project teams gained knowledge and experience that will influence their work contributions and personal competencies. The impact will continue beyond their work with the HRSA IdeaSpring and complement their role in attaining organizational goals and objectives.

Do you think there will be another round of the Idea Spring in the future?

We certainly hope so! HRSA leadership has been extremely supportive of this pilot program. We are hopeful that the success of all the HRSA IdeaSpring teams and Agency-wide interest will help us make the case to continue the effort.  Our team will be presenting our recommendations to HRSA senior leadership in the next month, so stay tuned! Watch the recording of HRSA IdeaSpring’s first Demo Day here

Welcoming the Newest Teams to Ignite and Ventures

Last fall, we asked the employees of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to begin submitting their project ideas on how they want to improve the way their office carries out its mission. We have two programs (one having multiple parts) that collectively make up our Internal Innovation Pipeline. Graphic of the HHS IDEA Lab Innovation Pipeline   The Ignite Accelerator is the Department’s internal innovation startup program that provides coaching and support to help HHS Staff take their ideas from conception to tested prototype. Over the last few months, the finalist teams have had the opportunity to explore their idea a bit further through direct interactions with their customers. And starting in April, the selected teams will be attending a Boot Camp to kick-start their 3 month journey. The Ventures Fund offers growth-stage funding and support to for staff ready to take a proven concept to the next level. Projects are able to pitch for up to 15 months and up to $100,000 of support. Starting immediately, these teams, with the support of subject matter experts and methodology mentors, to take their ideas from validated concept to implemented solution. Today, we are announcing the teams selected into these two competitive programs. The selected individuals, projects, and offices are listed below. Please join me in congratulating these teams!

The HHS Ignite Accelerator

From the 104 initial submissions and over 50 finalists, the following 23 teams are being selected into the Spring 2016 Ignite Accelerator.

  • The Application Toolkit. Led by Carmelia Strickland of the Administration for Native Americans within ACF.
  • Understanding Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) through Data Visualization. Led by Lauren Frohlich of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
  • ASA Project Management Skills Bank. Led by Elizabeth Bergamini of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration within the Office of the Secretary.
  • Partnership Alignment Information Response System (PAIRS). Led by Mary Seaton from the Region 10 Offices of ACF and HHS.
  • Sourcing the Crowd to Make Reports that Matter. Led by Elise Berliner from the Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement from AHRQ.
  • DataQuest: Making ACF Native Data Visible and Useful. Led by Camille Loya of the Administration for Native Americans within ACF.
  • CMS FOIA and Correspondence ONLINE Request Entry System. Led by Janis Nero from the Office of Strategic Operations and Regulatory Affairs within CMS.
  • Back to the Drawing Board: Re-imagining Alternative Medical Malpractice Dispute Models. Led by Paul Lotterer from the Bureau for Healthcare Workforce within HRSA.
  • Building Flexibility into the Training Experience for HHS. Led by Dan Elbert from the Office of Operations within HRSA.
  • Improving Utilization of Data in Organ Transplant Decision-Making. Led by Bob Walsh from the Health Systems Bureau within HRSA.
  • Scribe: Web-based capture of patient-reported outcome data. Led by Jason Levine from the National Cancer Institute within NIH.
  • Consumers at the Center: Improving HHS’s Consumer-Facing Resources. Led by Sarika Kasaraneni from the Office of Health Reform within the Office of the Secretary.
  • Rapid Opioid Alert Response (ROAR). Led by Mitra Ahadpour from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment within SAMHSA.
  • Swipe Right to Collaborate! Making Authentic Partnership Easier for Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Grantees. Led by Nicole Bennett from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health within the Office of the Secretary
  • Project CURE: Clear, Useful Reports for Everyone. Led by Jennifer Tyrawski from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health within CDC
  • NIOSH Nexus: A Collaboration Facilitator. Led by Carin Kosmoski from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health within CDC
  • System To Prevent Group B Streptococcal Infections (STOP GBS). Led by Gayle Langley from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases within CDC
  • CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program Redesign. Led by Christian Scheel from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the CDC.
  • Big Data Tools to Find Patient Harm in Health Records. Led by Roselie Bright from the Office of Commissioner of the FDA.
  • Rapid Enforcement Action Quality Transformation (REAQT). Led by David Jaworski from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research within the FDA.
  • See Me as a Person. Led by Brandy Cloud from the Phoenix Regional Office of the IHS.
  • Initiative for Translational Discoveries (iTrans). Led by Ian Hutchins from the Office of the Director of NIH In partnership with Harvard University.
  • Cloud Caffeine: Catalyzing Cloud Adoption at the NIH. Led by Nick Weber from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within NIH.

The HHS Ventures Fund

Of the 23 initial projects pitched, we are happy to announce the selection of the following 5 teams into Round 3 of the Ventures Fund:

Automated Autism Classification for Public Health Surveillance

From CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities: 15-year, population-based autism surveillance is labor-intensive and costly. To classify autism in children, trained clinicians review dramatically increasing numbers of written medical and educational evaluations. The team’s machine learning approach, in its pilot phase, could instantly classify evaluations, reduce clinician workload, and save time and money.

Global Bidding and Assignment System 2.0

The current system to recruit, keep, and deploy a specialized global workforce is not flexible enough to meet the expanding global mandates of the Department and keep Americans safe from global health threats. The Global Bidding and Assignment System (GBAS), a specialized system for global recruitment, bidding, training, and assignments, has shown early promise during its pilot, in filling overseas global public health vacancies while providing a unifying workforce strategy across the Department.  The project is a joint effort of team members from the HHS Office of Global Affairs, CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, FDA, and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration.

NARMS Collect: A Public Health Surveillance Mobile App

From the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine: The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) team will design a mobile app with the goal to decrease manual entry of data associated with samples collected in the field. This app will simplify an 8-16 hour per month process and improve the accuracy of time sensitive food safety monitoring data that are used for regulatory decision making. Stakeholders are interested in the app’s ability to conduct real time surveillance while saving the government time and dollars.

Optimizing HR Operations: The Federal HR Wiki

A team representing the Office of Human Resources at the NIH and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration has created a pilot of a Wiki (a website that allows for collaborative editing) tool to help manage Federal Human Resources Knowledge. The goal would be to pilot this with the Office of Human Resources at NIH with the possibility of future expansion across the Department.

Automation of Onboarding Process for Special Government Employees

NIH has about 1,200 Federal advisory committee members who provide second-level peer review of grant applications and critical advice/recommendations to NIH. Appointing these Special Government Employees is currently done manually, including the completion of 13 required forms. Automation would allow data sharing, interconnectivity with existing systems, and electronic interface with the customer. This pilot could be scalable to other HHS divisions and the federal government. This is a joint project of team members from the NIH Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Cancer Institute, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and Center for Scientific Review.