How can HHS benefit from the Digital Revolution?

We are well into the fourth industrial revolution – an era that provides a range of new technologies bringing together the physical, digital and biological worlds. It is a revolution that impacts digitization on the economy, providing emerging technology breakthroughs of artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things and autonomous vehicles, to name a few.

We are currently witnessing the benefits of digital transformation that enables seamless data sharing in our personal and professional lives every day. Today, our smart phones report weather and traffic in real time, much of the information gathered by sensors and processed through predictive databases brought on by the fourth industrial revolution and its manufacturing roots. We have products like smart cars, smart beds, and wearable devices for health and fitness, all possible because of the convergence of analytics and big data. Further, robotic process automation helps workers configure computer software to capture and interpret applications to process transactions, activate responses, and communicate with other systems.

In preparation for the 12th annual symposium from Stewards of Change, I am looking forward to a dialogue around data sharing, information technology, and collaboration to improve the overall ecosystem of health and human services (HHS).
Thinking through the themes this year, I immediately thought how uniquely aligned the digital transformation is to understanding emerging ecosystems within HHS in this new era.

HHS agencies face numerous challenges with issues related to opioid abuse, child safety, provider-patient relationships, child support enforcement and the need for interoperability across programs.

How can HHS benefit from the digital revolution? There are already stories of the impact of digital transformation that is changing the way agencies work. For example, to fight the opioid epidemic, governments are rapidly collecting information from databases that monitor prescriptions as well as systems that track licensing violations and digital archives of vital records. These data sets contain critical information about opioid use and abuse. Data scientists connect the data from various sources and use it to help identify patient’s pill-seeking behaviors, and prevent opioid addiction and dependency.

In child welfare, smart phones, tablets and laptops offer new tools to the workforce. They not only improve documentation timeliness and accuracy, they also improve field access to critical information. Smart phones host apps that bring tools directly to child welfare professionals, strengthening their work with children and families.

Electronic medical records have increased healthcare organizations’ access to individual patient data and common indicators. Disease propensity models can help hospitals, insurance exchanges and insurers better understand at-risk patients. This information also drives population health movements, identifying social determinants of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other population health issues. The data measures the outcomes of treatments to steer provider decisions.

I am enthusiastic about this industrial revolution and its’ intersection with HHS programs and am pleased to have this opportunity to have a discussion on the digital transformation. The fourth industrial revolution will help HHS agencies empower all parties involved; State leaders, secretaries, directors, case workers, providers as well as our most vulnerable individuals and families to embrace the digital age to improve social determinants and fight major epidemics like the opioid crisis. By embracing innovation, we begin to accomplish digital transformation in HHS.

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