Many of you see the entire spectrum of healthcare issues: from prescription drug costs to provider negotiations to digital health innovation. You know that, while the cost and design of coverage itself needs attention, and the Trump administration is working hard to improve that area, many of the challenges we face in healthcare are about the underlying cost and value of the care delivered, and the costs of particular health challenges like the opioid crisis.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that warm welcome. It's great to be with you all today.
Events like this one are an encouraging, energizing experience for me. They're a great reminder that the dedicated public servants I work with at HHS are far from the only Americans who are working hard at thinking about innovation in healthcare and how we can improve the health and well-being of the American people. The contribution each of you makes to improve our healthcare system is important, and it's great to be surrounded by people who are as excited as I am about the transformative possibilities we have before us today in healthcare.
President Trump has been laser-focused on how to turn the exciting possibilities we have before us into realities. From day one, he's been determined to build a system that provides the affordability you need, the options and control you want, and the quality you deserve.
The President has a particular vision for healthcare that we're working on at HHS: creating a system with affordable, personalized care, a system that puts you in control, provides peace of mind, and treats you like a human being, not a number. It's a vision we at HHS are excited about turning into reality because of the potential it holds for patients and everyone else in the healthcare sector.
So what does executing on this vision look like? One guiding principle is that we want to protect what works in our system and fix what's broken.
Secretary Azar has three cross-cutting platforms where this administration is working to deliver on this: reforming the financing of care, deriving better value from that care, and improving health in specific, impactable areas.
Ultimately, the core of this vision is not only the goal of creating a better healthcare system; we want to create a healthcare system that actually produces better health for the people who depend on it.
It's no secret that people in Washington, D.C. too often only think of our healthcare system in terms of how we finance care. I know that most of you will agree with me when I say that there's more to healthcare than whether and what kind of insurance people have.
I actually think that many of you gathered here have a great perspective on this topic. Many of you see the entire spectrum of healthcare issues: from prescription drug costs to provider negotiations to digital health innovation. You know that, while the cost and design of coverage itself needs attention, and the Trump administration is working hard to improve that area, many of the challenges we face in healthcare are about the underlying cost and value of the care delivered, and the costs of particular health challenges like the opioid crisis.
So I want to take a moment to highlight the second and third platforms I mentioned a few moments ago: deriving better value from care and improving health in specific, impactable areas.
I think most people in this room would agree that healthcare should first and foremost be about providing patients with the best care possible. Real value is created when Americans experience better health from that care.
One way we can do that is through better coordination of care. Back when Secretary Azar announced his vision for value-based transformation, he named regulatory burdens, especially around care coordination, as an essential piece of the agenda.
This effort fell under something we launched almost two ago, called the Deputy Secretary's Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care. This effort has been a complex coordinating project among different components of HHS, and it's involved a huge amount of consultation with our stakeholders to understand where our rules are standing in the way of innovation, and how we can reform them while remaining faithful to the underlying statutes.
One way you can tell we're serious about engaging the public is that we even have a hashtag for the Regulatory Sprint: #RS2CC.
For now, we're looking at four areas in particular: the Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, HIPAA, and mental health and substance abuse privacy rules.
These roughly fit into two categories: Stark and the AKS, which largely affect compensation and financial arrangements, and HIPAA and 42 CFR Part 2, which largely affect the flow of patient information.
Both issues are crucial. Driving better value through innovative, coordinated care requires both flexibility in financial arrangements and the free flow of information. Last year, on the Stark and the AKS front, the Trump Administration proposed the first-ever major revision of these regulations with a view toward advancing value-based care, which will finally enable a whole range of commonsense arrangements between doctors, hospitals, and physicians.
Our proposals will finally enable a whole range of commonsense arrangements between doctors, hospitals, and physicians. Take cybersecurity, for instance. Under our proposed role, a large hospital system could work with smaller physicians' practices to provide them with free cybersecurity software that enables a secure link for patient records between the hospital and the physicians' offices—enabling better security for small practices without requiring consolidation.
Likewise, for 42 CFR Part 2, we've proposed rules to bring this decades-old regulation into the 21st century, breaking down the barriers it created to coordinated care, especially as it pertains to treatment for substance abuse.
All of this demonstrates that there are a lot of places where we can pare back rules that are inhibiting transformation and innovation in the healthcare space.
To continue driving that transformation, we also need to be listening to the private sector about where in particular they want to innovate. This is one of the reasons why I launched the Deputy Secretary Innovation and Investment Summit, or DSIIS, which brings together healthcare innovators and investment professionals. We've identified four particular areas of interest within DSIIS: value-based care, empowering consumers and increasing their engagement, liberating data to drive value, and developing best practices for approval and reimbursement of medical products and services.
One exciting area for innovation, where the government can help by laying down simple rules of the road to promote innovation, is interoperability of health IT. It's no secret how innovation and a drive to a better healthcare system and better health can be stifled when health data is siloed. So, through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, we've proposed to open up the flow of information, and put patients in charge, with our interoperability rule.
This rule is squarely aimed at empowering patients as consumers, lowering healthcare costs, and helping providers improve their patients' health. I know that this is a complex issue, so I want to underscore that we've deeply appreciated the input we've received from commenters on the draft rule, including some of you in this room.
The final area I want to touch on is the role for the private sector in tackling the impactable health challenges like HIV, kidney disease, and rural health. I'll highlight one specific area, our country's crisis of opioid addiction and overdose.
We're making real progress in turning the tide on the crisis: Provisional data from 2018 suggested that the total number of drug overdose deaths in America dropped for the first time in more than two decades. Every agency at HHS has been involved in one way or another to stop the damage of substance abuse in its tracks and help bring healing to so many communities across the country.
This past fall, the National Institutes of Health awarded $945 million in grants, contracts and cooperative agreements through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative or NIH HEAL Initiative, which aims to support new and better treatments for pain and addiction.
One neat aspect of the HEAL Initiative grants is that many of them are supporting not just universities whose research will lead to new addiction or pain treatments to market, but also many small biotech firms who are tackling these challenges too.
There's a role for the private sector on many of the impactable health challenges we've identified, too, whether that's innovative models for rural healthcare delivery like telehealth, or new technologies for treating kidney disease. Employers have a role to play on these issues, too, by thinking about how they can support creative models for financing and delivery of care. These kinds of impactable areas are places where FDA and NIH are working hard to deliver better health for Americans who've been neglected for too long.
In closing, I want to encourage you to explore the many opportunities created by the initiatives I've described.
Like I said at the outset, I think there's never been a more exciting time to be working in healthcare: Secretary Azar and I, and everyone across the administration, are really excited. Our journey has only just begun, but I'm confident we're headed in a direction that will transform our healthcare system and improve the health of every American. Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you all today.