Xconomy’s Todd Park and Friends on the Future of Health IT Event: Photos, Ideas, and Thanks

I learned a bunch during Wednesday’s Xconomy Xchange, which featured Todd Park, chief technology officer of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, and other luminaries discussing the future of health IT. The sold-out event in Cambridge, MA, brought to light lots of intriguing ideas about how to improve the healthcare system. Below are some of the sights and insights from the event.

Park, our keynote speaker, emphasized that nationwide adoption of electronic health records is just a start, but real progress in the healthcare system depends on reforming the way this country pays doctors. “We cannot keep paying for healthcare by the yard, we have to pay for value,” he said.

Park, a (fully divested) co-founder and former business chief of Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth (NASDAQ:ATHN), says that his title at HHS is a bit of a misnomer and he considers himself an entrepreneur-in-residence in the agency. True to his entrepreneurial roots, Park has been working for the past year and a half at HHS as an agent of change, and he shared some of the his latest projects with the large audience at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center.

Here are some highlights from Park’s talk (view slides from his presentation here):

—Last year the government launched the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, which Park says will be able to explore new ways of paying for healthcare that can improve the quality and value of care to patients. The kicker is that the new payment models tested at the new innovation center can be implemented without an act of Congress, according to Park.

—The HHS is becoming a clearinghouse of electronic health data, spurring businesses to create applications that derive value from the data—much like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has done with online weather data to support Weather.com and other products.

—Along those lines, later this year HHS plans to release APIs or tools for software developers to use the agency’s health insurance data to create new applications. Some companies have already developed new applications through the HHS’s Community Health Data Initiative.

—Next week the agency plans to go live with a new website called Healthdata.gov that will be used to support the community of developers and entrepreneurs that are making use of the information.

Park also participated in a fascinating discussion with Dana Callow, founder and managing general partner of Boston Millennia Partners, Bob Higgins, co-founder and general partner of Highland Capital Partners, and Rob Seliger, a general manager in charge of product development in the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.

Seliger said that his group is making its most significant investment in “classic, Microsoft-style enterprise software,” noting the company’s flagship product Amalga for aggregating and analyzing health data for hospitals and a separate version of the product for life sciences research. Seliger, as many know, took his job for Microsoft after the software giant’s December 2009 purchase of his Andover, MA-based provider of health data access software, Sentillion, where he had been chief executive. Sentillion’s operation in Andover has become part of Microsoft.

Both Higgins and Callow noted that there’s a shortage of capital facing new health IT businesses. At Highland, however, Higgins said that the firm has been providing seed investments in new startups in this sector such as Boston-based Kyruus and Generation Health. He said that Generation Health, a provider of genetic testing benefits management, was still using some space in the basement of his firm’s Lexington, MA, office when pharmacy giant CVS Caremark acquired the startup).

Thanks go to Microsoft NERD for hosting and sponsoring this event at its slick digs in Kendall Square. (I was particularly fond of the seating built into the stairs leading from the lobby to the conference area). We also received support for the main event from Athenahealth, Cisco Systems, and EMC. And while I wish could individually thank all the entrepreneurs, investors, clinicians and other folks who came to the event, at least I can mention a few who were there and tweeting with our event hashtag, #xhit—@1charleshuang, @PearlF, @cjaustin, @DrDannySands, @Rgreenglass, and @jacquimiller.

Here are some photos (all of them courtesy of Kendall Press) of the speakers and attendees at Microsoft NERD:

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