HIMSS News

Startup Day Cleveland with HHS: Cracking the Code on Tech Innovation for Federal Agencies

Cleveland skyline

Tech startups won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to interact with and gain insights from federal agencies.

Startup Day Cleveland takes place on Thursday, November 8 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the HIMSS Innovation & Conference Center in the downtown Global Center for Health Innovation. The event features the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and has already traveled to seven U.S. cities spreading the word on how startups can find resources and contacts for tech solutions designed to meet the needs of federal government agencies.

Small startup companies get an unusual chance to meet representatives from agencies including HHS, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and others. The agencies are looking to share information on their programs and funding — including policy goals and innovation objectives. The eligible startups can pitch their solution at the event and receive feedback and direction.

Why Startup Days Are Needed

The HHS Startup Day grew out of the 2017 Connected Health Conference in Boston. The idea was to bring tech innovators from different U.S. cities together to collaborate and help each other advance new solutions needed by federal government agencies. At an early roundtable discussion, startup owners said their biggest pain point was a lack of access to the federal department of HHS – whether it was asking the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about payment and reimbursement or seeking answers on health IT policy from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

“They just didn’t know where to start, who to ask, or what door to knock on,” said Stephen Konya, senior innovation strategist with ONC. “Our chief technology officer at HHS said we need to open the doors to this massive organization and turn it outward. We need to go to the communities and be accessible.”

What came next was HSS Startup Days, a series of presentations to demystify what government agencies do. “We let innovation communities know who we are and why they should know about our programs, our regulations and resources. And we give them the opportunity to interact in a casual setting,” said Konya.

These lunch table conversations gave startups a better sense for federal agencies, while giving HHS insights into the roadblocks to innovation, including restrictive or misunderstood policies.

Watch Stephen Konya, talk with HIMSSTV about how HHS Start Up Days help startups navigate federal policies while also helping officials better understand the barriers to innovation.

Measuring Startup Day Success

Though a new concept, Startup Days are proving their value by raising awareness of federal agency resources like regulation guides, testing tools for developers, and free resources including sandboxes like the Inferno.

“Big companies know about these tools by attending events like the HIMSS Global Conference,” explained Konya. “But entrepreneurs don’t have that budget and may never find out about these resources or they do it late in the game. In the Startup Days, they can learn about free resources to help them build solutions, come to market, understand payment plans, and know where the industry is going.”

What to Expect in Cleveland

Not all cities have the same needs for health IT innovation. Like other stops on the HSS tour, the November 8 event in Cleveland is customized for the unique needs of the region’s tech ecosystem. HHS supplies a template for the agenda and brings in the agencies and speakers – but allows the local community to decide the rest. Events are built around a theme and take on an identity of their own. In Cleveland the focus is on opioids and social determinants of health.

The agenda in Cleveland features speakers and key decision makers from departments within HHS, including Chief Technology Officer and Acting Chief Information Officer Ed Simcox. A panel discussion on enabling innovation through government agencies will be moderated by HIMSS Vice President of Government Relations Tom Leary.

At a networking lunch, participants can meet representatives from federal agencies. In the afternoon, leading digital health startups will take part in live pitch presentations.

Further Down the Road

Cleveland is the eighth city on the tour and is part of the HHS two-year commitment to hosting startup days. One year into the program, it may be extended beyond that. “If somebody wants to know how to engage in one of the startup events, let your local ecosystem champions know about it,” said Konya. “Those people who can bring the community together are the ones we like to work with. They can open it up to as many people as possible.”

Registration for HHS Startup Day Cleveland is complimentary but required.

Startup Day Cleveland

Thursday, November 8 | 9:00 am to 3:00 pm ET

Global Center for Health Innovation | HIMSS Innovation Center

Learn more | Register