HHS launches 'Idea Lab' to help medical device developers

Jeff Rowe
HHS launches 'Idea Lab' to help medical device developers

As U.S Health and Human Services Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox sees it, the federal government was caught “flat footed” when the Internet came about.  And it’s been playing catch up ever since.

Fox offered that observation this week at the StartUp Health Festival, in San Francisco, as she announced a new HHS effort, the Invent Health Initiative, that aims to help small-scale inventors overcome barriers such as lack of access to tools and information that could help them create new innovations.

“Small-scale inventors are creating solutions to home health and clinical care challenges to help people live more independently, in better health, and with greater dignity,” the website explains. “Yet many of these innovators lack access to the tools and information that would help them explore, test, and take their ideas to scale. Government plays a vital role in this ecosystem. How might we serve as a platform to help overcome barriers?”

The new website points to some examples of consumer inventors disrupting healthcare and life sciences, such as Manu Prakash, the developer of a paper microscope created in response to the need for accurate diagnostic tools in low-risk environments. Prakash, who runs a bioengineering lab at Stanford University, created a foldable paper microscope that is powerful enough to detect E.coli bacteria.

HHS also recently teamed up with OptumLabs, a healthcare innovation center created by UnitedHealth Group's Optum division and the Mayo Clinic, to work with the federal government on healthcare research initiatives