5 thoughts from HHS CTO Susannah Fox on technology in healthcare

As the chief technology officer of HHS, Susannah Fox helps leadership harness data, technology and innovation to improve healthcare nationwide. In a recent conversation with The Wall Street Journal, she reiterated her goal at HHS is "to further widen the definition of technology beyond code and data" and harness technological progress to protect Americans' well-being.

Here are five more thoughts from Ms. Fox, from her WSJ interview.

1. Patients do access health-related information online, but mostly use it to connect with providers and others with the same condition. "Studies I led at the Pew Research Center found that clinicians remain the top information source, online or offline, but about one in four U.S. adults say they have turned to others who have the same health condition. The deceptively simple reason: the internet gives us access not only to information, but also to each other. That is crucial to unlocking the potential of health and technology, from clinical-trial design to hospital discharge planning."

2. Patients' role in their own health shouldn't be undermined. "People who are close to a problem are best suited to help solve it.

"I spent more than a decade doing fieldwork in online patient communities, tracking the pattern of people being locked out of libraries, medical journals, research labs and even their own health records. They used the internet to beg, borrow and steal access to the tools they needed to save or improve their own lives. They showed all of us the point of technology: to learn from each other. We need that can-do American spirit in healthcare."

3. HHS' goals must evolve with the changing environment and definitions. "HHS has an ambitious mission: to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. How might we deliver on that mission in a constantly evolving world? We can use technology as a Trojan horse for change. We say technology, but we mean innovation. We talk about interoperability, but we mean culture change in favor of openness."

4. As the population ages, there is a need for innovation for this group to make services more accessible. "Dealing with age-related disability is going to be a growth industry, so we may as well anticipate and even welcome the opportunity to involve the people most in need.

"What happened with the democratization of access to information and data is going to be mirrored in the democratization of design and manufacturing tools. And it can't happen quickly enough."

5. Leadership is key for innovation. "There are few sectors as resistant to change as government and healthcare. We count on their stability.

"We need a culture of experimentation that embraces risk and recognizes that failure is not only an option, but is likely within the safe setting of a lab like ours. And we need to ensure that anyone who sees a problem can research, prototype and test a solution."

Click here to read the full interview.

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