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Fall 2017 HHS Ignite Accelerator: Selecting the Teams

At the HHS IDEA Lab, we have selected the 7th round of teams for the HHS Ignite Accelerator (Ignite), the Department's internal innovation startup program for staff who want to improve the way their program, office, or agency works.

At the HHS IDEA Lab, we have selected the 7th round of teams for the HHS Ignite Accelerator (Ignite), the Department's internal innovation startup program for staff who want to improve the way their program, office, or agency works.

This round we received a total of 79 proposals from across the Department and 14 teams were accepted to participate in the program. This post is meant to illustrate the selection process. This post builds off previous explanations of the Ignite selection. Here are the links to our selection methodologies for Spring 2017, Spring 2016, Winter 2015, and Summer 2015.

We received 79 Proposals

Each team that submitted a proposal identified a project lead, and we asked for that person's Agency (or as we call it here in HHS, that person's Operational Division [OpDiv]). Below, we breakdown the 79 proposals by OpDiv.

  • Administration for Children and Families = 2
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality = 0
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention = 13
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services = 12
  • Food and Drug Administration = 13
  • Health Resources and Services Administration = 4
  • Indian Health Service = 12
  • National Institutes of Health = 12
  • Office of the Secretary = 11

The 79 proposals were scored by 18 Reviewers

The reviewers were either previous Ignite team members or close collaborators on projects from the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. The reviewers were:

  • Carin Kosmoski, CDC
  • Jennifer Tyrawski, CDC
  • Leigh Willis, CDC
  • Jon Langmead, CMS
  • Aditi Mallick, CMS
  • Jennifer Himmelstein, IHS
  • Bethany Applebaum, HRSA
  • Dan Elbert, HRSA
  • Paul Lotterer, HRSA
  • Audrey Lau, NIH
  • Jay Radke, NIH
  • Bruce Sundstrom, NIH
  • Nick Webber, NIH
  • Kate Appel, OS
  • Dan Duplantier, OS
  • Katerina Horska, OS
  • Mona Siddiqui, OS
  • Elizabeth Squire, OS

Each proposal was scored 3 times

We worked with 18 reviewers, separated the reviewers into 6 panels, and then distributed the 79 proposals across the panels. Each proposal was scored roughly 3 times. We used the average of the 3 scores to make a final score that we used in our analysis. Each reviewer received standardized guidance for scoring proposals. Naturally, there was some variation in each reviewer's scores. To normalize the scores we used Z-scores. We include more information about Z-scores below under the section titled, "There were three ways a project idea could advance." We asked each reviewer to self-identify if they should recuse themselves. The reviewers reported no identified conflicts and no need for recusal.

Each proposal was scored based upon defined criteria

Each project proposal was scored on a 0-100 range based upon the following criteria:

  • The project's alignment to the Office or Agency mission [20 points]
  • The proposal's explanation of the process, product, or system to be addressed. [60 points]
  • How well the proposed solution aligns with the communicated problem. [20 points]

Reviewers were also asked if they thought the proposal should be considered to become a finalist. Each reviewer was also asked to provide comments on the proposal to justify their score.

There were three ways a project idea could advance

The following were ways in which a proposal was able to advance:

  • The top z-scores overall
  • Review Panel unanimously votes to advance it
  • Wildcards picked by IDEA Lab staff

Z-scores are used as a way to control differences in reviewer scoring. For instance, out of a score of 100, reviewers on Panel A might score teams at an average of 70, whereas reviewers on Panel B might score teams at an average of 85. In this case, we see that Panel A has harsher reviewing criteria whereas Panel B is less harsh. Now, the raw scores are different, but they both happen to say the same thing - the average. Thus, the Z-score accounts for that variation. Here's the wikipedia article on z-scores if you'd like to learn more.

While we rely on statistical methods to rank applications, we also recognize that the process shouldn't be left to math alone. Thus, we have a wildcard slot. Wildcards were picked by Ignite program Directors, Kevin McTigue and Will Yang. We combed through every proposal, rigorously analyzing and fervently debating proposals that we felt were eligible for the wildcard category.

We interviewed 30 teams

During this stage, we further down selected applicants through 25 minute conversations. The applicants were given an opportunity to pitch the Ignite program Directors for 5 minutes and converse for 20 minutes on their problem identified, solution, background for solving the problem, team background, and general clarity of direction.

We selected 14 project ideas for Ignite

We selected 14 teams for the Fall 2017 Ignite Accelerator. This was the most difficult selection process yet, and we are excited to work with those at HHS who are willing to test new ideas to improve the delivery of health and human services. We wish we could have accepted more teams, and hope to do so in the future. To all those who submitted proposals, keep pressing on and innovating to better serve the American people.

Teams Selected

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen!

Submitted by staff from: ACF / Office of Communications

ACF program offices act as independent, autonomous units, with little to no formal communication across channels. Because of this lack of communication, there are lost opportunities in resource sharing, joint process improvement, and employee engagement resulting in differing service delivery and regular duplication of effort. Through collaboration with staff from across the agency, we want to determine which connections (topic, location, job function) are most compelling, and what methods (communications vehicles, spaces for face-to-face work, possibly even restructuring of current management systems) would be most effective for fostering collaboration.

The Team:

Tiffany Pryce, ACF / OC

Claire Blaustein, ACF / OC

Streamlining Poverty Programs

Submitted by staff from: ACF / Office of Regional Operations

Thirteen federal agencies run more than 80 federal programs that provide food, housing, health care, job training, education, energy assistance, and cash to low-income Americans. These programs often lack coordination and have different regulatory requirements, causing inefficacies in their delivery at the state and local level. HHS and specifically ACF house many of these programs and our agency and OpDiv can lead the way for streamlining services and working with states to design systems look at families holistically and create no wrong door of entry. Specifically, we will develop a toolkit for working with States to streamline systems to align and link systems and funding streams.

The Team:

Erica Fleischer, ACF / ORO

Angela Green, ACF /ORO

Christine Quinn, Department of Labor / E&T

A Novel Rapid Reporting & Response Tool to Prevent Opioid Overdose

Submitted by staff from: CDC / NCIPC

The Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (W/B HIDTA) built ODMAP, a surveillance tool that reports suspected overdoses in real time. ODMAP's surveillance includes an automated, early warning system, alerting public health officials and first responders to a new spike in overdoses as it is unfolding. We seek to integrate ODMAP with regional and local EMS and dispatch systems to supplement data entered by first responders. These analytical resources will allow ODMAP to achieve its full overdose prevention potential, monitoring data in real time across jurisdictions. We also seek to integrate these systems with real-time alerts of ongoing overdose spikes.

The Team:

Aleta Christensen, CDC / NCIPC

Jeff Beeson, W/B HIDTA

Jack Cibor, W/B HIDTA

Building Advanced Molecular Capacity in Global Laboratories

Submitted by staff from: CDC/ NCIRD

Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has transformed detection and surveillance of pathogens. Over the past four years, CDC's Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) Initiative has supported a variety of NGS projects, which have led to faster detection and increased resolution for tracking pathogens during outbreaks such as food-borne and novel coronavirus epidemics. As increased globalization gives rise to pandemics, the success demonstrated at CDC using NGS supports using this technology to strengthen laboratory capacity in international settings. In response to requests from the Vietnam Minister of Health for implementing AMD technologies, the United States and Vietnam governments released a joint statement in May affirming support for development of an advanced national reference laboratory in Vietnam. CDC is in a unique position to provide technical support for implementing AMD infrastructure. The main hurdle is to determine the most effective means of transferring AMD methodologies.

The Team:

Rachel Marine, CDC / NCIRD

Arunmozhi Balajeer, CDC / NCIRD

Karen Alroy, CDC / NCIRD

Preparing the U.S. Workforce for an Airborne Pandemic

Submitted by staff from: CDC/ NIOSH

N95 respirators are one of the most important ways the U.S. workforce, including healthcare workers, protect themselves against contagious infections, such as tuberculosis and influenza. To be sure the respirator fits properly and is effective, each worker must have a "fit-test" before wearing it in the workplace. Employers find the fit-testing process to be burdensome and expensive, so typically only a portion of workers are fit-tested, leaving many not knowing what model or size respirator to wear, should they need to protect themselves. Therefore, during a public health emergency, such as the next influenza pandemic, many workers will need to be fit-tested rapidly. However, little is known about how fast fit-testing can be completed. This problem is a critical gap in knowledge that stands to have a major influence on the U.S. resiliency during a public health emergency.

The Team:

Lew Radonovich, CDC / NIOSH

Angela Weber, CDC / NIOSH

Mike Bergman, CDC / NIOSH

From Benchtop to Kitchen Tabletop, Helping Medicare Beneficiaries Access Laboratory Diagnostics

Submitted by staff from: CMS / CCSQ

Barriers of turning biomedical science knowledge to translational tools creates a delay in the time for patient populations, particularly Medicare beneficiaries, to access the best treatment options available, and can cost innovators time that they may otherwise devote to refining the quality of their test or treatment. Slack in the product life cycle can happen at many points, but most pronounced are those periods of waiting while trying to identify the correct decision makers and understand next steps. Just as researchers translate scientific discovery into clinical treatment, we will integrate processes of NIH, FDA and CMS to reduce wait time between Agency decision points. Our new front door for innovators will better coordinate procedures and make available Agency expertise at key transitional nodes.

The Team:

Katherine B. Szarama, CMS / CCSQ / Coverage & Analysis Group

Eunice Lee, FDA

Brandi Kattman, NIH

An Integrated Health Solutions Tool: Exploring the Intersection of Hospital Readmissions and Social Determinants of Health among People with Sickle Cell Disease

Submitted by staff from: CMS and OS / ASPE

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting over 100,000 Americans at a yearly cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. SCD results in episodic periods of severe pain, leading to high use of health care resources. People with SCD (31.9%) had the highest 30-day all-cause readmission rate among other conditions with high readmission rates. The problem that we aim to tackle is the readmission rates for persons with SCD. We would like to test the idea that (1) the social determinants of health, which are conditions in which people live, learn, work and age, are associated with SCD readmissions among Medicare beneficiaries and (2) screening for these determinants would empower patients and their providers to mitigate the harmful factors which contribute to poor health outcomes and high health-care cost.

The Team:

Shondelle Wilson-Frederick, CMS / OMH

Chazeman Jackson, OS/ASPE

Show me the Money

Submitted by staff from: HRSA / BHW

The Bureau of Health Workforce at HRSA makes over 1,400 grant awards per year and the grant award-making process has more than 20 steps that are currently tracked manually. Staff and Managers cannot easily see the status of awards across the grant award-making process, which makes it harder to proactively manage. We would like to develop a prototype dashboard to actively track the process.

The Team:

Ken Ambrose, HRSA / BHW

Gail Lipton, HRSA / BHW

Melissa Moore, HRSA / BHW

Vipin Sethi, HRSA / BHW

Kourtney Thomas, HRSA / BHW

Developing and Recruiting Physicians for IHS Careers

Submitted by staff from: IHS / Office of Human Resources

The Indian Health Service (IHS) suffers from significant physician shortages in many of its service units and currently has no formal training program for its providers to understand IHS' unique needs. A clinical fellowship, including formal training in quality improvement and physician leadership, would be an ideal method of attracting physicians into IHS as well as providing the training necessary for successful practice within IHS. Developing a training program will supply a pipeline of qualified, trained clinicians for IHS who can effectively provide high-quality care at IHS.

The Team:

Paul Jung, IHS / OHR

Francine Barnett, IHS / OHR

Angele Mtungwa, IHS / OHR

Real-time Sepsis Screening and Provider Notification Using the Electronic Health Record

Submitted by staff from: IHS / Northern Cheyenne Service Unit

The current Electronic Health Record (EHR) used by the Indian Health Service has no known capability to warn healthcare providers when a cluster of vital signs metrics collected on a patient indicate the possibility of sepsis in real-time. This is detrimental to patient safety and quality of care and places an unnecessarily high financial burden on the service units where these patients seek care. This project aims to improve the EHR to make it possible for the EHR to: 1) analyze heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate and Oxygen Saturation measurements against preset normal values, 2) Analyze the abnormal values within the context of a sepsis screening tool; e.g., MEWS, qSOFA, etc. 3) provide real-time notification to healthcare providers if the combination of abnormal vital signs entered are indicative of sepsis.

The Team:

Nathan Moyer, IHS / Northern Cheyenne Service Unit

Tristan Goodluck, IHS / Northern Cheyenne Service Unit

ACTIV Collaborative Business Development

Submitted by staff from: NIH / NCATS

It is critical to efficiently commercialize all available R&Ds originated from NIH funding across our country, but many innovative NIH awardees outside the major biotech hubs experience systematic disadvantages to attract the essential corporate partnerships and investments. By forging an alliance among NIH awardees with an online business development platform to collaboratively engage corporate partners/investors and promote commercialization, we hope to enhance HHS support for translational and clinical innovations. This project aims to forge among NIH awardees an "Advanced Clinical and Translational Innovation Ventures (ACTIV)" alliance and create an online collaborative business development platform, enabling a searchable catalog for ACTIV partnerships/investments, collaborative partner/investor engagement/networking, and pitch competitions to market promising start-ups/ventures to corporate partners/investors.

The Team:

Timothy Hsiao, NIH / NCATS / DCI

Olga Brazhnik, NIH / NCATS / DCI

Adaptation of Agile Methodologies to Rare Diseases Drug Development

Submitted by staff from: NIH / NCATS

There are an estimated 7000 rare diseases that affect 25 million Americans, most of which have unmet medical needs. Rare disease drug development presents many challenges, such as small populations for clinical study, poorly understood diseases, few disease experts, and financial impediments to investment, among others. New approaches to expedite rare disease research through basic and translational phases and into the clinic are needed, as well as novel clinical designs to assess the efficacy of candidate therapeutics. The IT industry has adopted "agile" software development practices that use incremental and iterative methods to encourage adaptive planning, evolutionary development, continuous improvement, and rapid and flexible response to change. We propose adapting agile practices from the IT industry to rare disease drug development.

The Team:

Anne Pariser, NIH / NCATS

Tiina Urv, NIH / NCATS

Develop your B.R.E.E.D.! (Breeding Rodents Efficiently & Effortlessly by Design)

Submitted by staff from: NIH / NIDA (Baltimore)

Researchers at the NIH are using hundreds of thousands of rodents (mice and rats) per year and an increasing portion of these animals are genetically modified models (lines). Because of the rarity and/or the high cost of such animals, most of these models are bred at the institutes using them. Such decentralized practices are very time consuming for the researchers. Apart from these usual decentralized breeding practices, NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) has an efficient centralized breeding program where a handful of trained breeder specialists are taking care of the breeding and maintenance of all the rodent lines for the whole institute. Based on that model, this project will try to create a support resource to help other NIH institutes to implement their own centralized breeding programs.

The Team:

Francois Vautier, NIH / NIDA (Baltimore)

Smokefree.gov Personal Assistant

Submitted by staff from: OS / ASPA

The National Cancer Institute's Smokefree.gov Program has created many mobile health resources to help people quit smoking. Emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology can interact with the user in ways that SMS and other platforms cannot. We want to test if we can positively influence behavior by having Smokefree.gov interact with the consumer in different and more direct ways. The human-like virtual assistant would be able to encourage you, quiz you, advise you and motivate you when you slip.

The Team:

Coqui Aspiazu, OS/ ASPA

Amy Sanders, OS/ ASPA

Tessa Heydinger, OS/ ASPA

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