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What Is the Government Doing to Advance Health Care Digitization?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services counsel discusses cybersecurity in medical care.

Information digitization has revolutionized every industry, including health care. The U.S. government continues to make significant investments in securing private information as the world goes paperless. 

In the last 10 years, there has been a dramatic increase in venture funding in digital health, Syed Mohiuddin, counselor to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter 2024 Health IT Summit audience on January 30. “In 2022 alone, we had 22 unicorns, meaning companies that reached a valuation over a billion dollars,” he continued to emphasize health industry growth. 

For Mohiuddin, it is the government’s job to help industry create the infrastructure necessary to help fix the backbone for the folks upstream and downstream—and doing so ethically and responsibly.  

“To me, there’s five areas in which the government operates to help,” he said.

The first on the speaker’s list is policy, which is much more than regulation only, Mohiuddin explained. “The first key to good policy is listening and understanding where the field is,” he continued. “It’s about helping people, whether that’s best practices, whether it’s creating conditions” for safe and classified listening sessions. 

Assuring safety, he continued, is the second area of focus. “Really thinking hard about what we are doing independent of our policymaking apparatus in parallel to provide the infrastructure around safety,” Mohiuddin said. 

Spending money, which was the third area of focus on the speaker’s list, helps shape the direction in which health technology is going, he said. 

With public education taking fourth place, the final point on Mohiuddin’s list was internal operations. “[HHS] is a 6,000-person organization with a $2 trillion budget.” he stated. Failure to lead by example would signify meaningless words, where policies, education and money spent lead to defeat. 

Using those areas of focus, the speaker went on to discuss cybersecurity in the medical field. 

In a digitized world, the health care industry was expected to become an attractive target for cyber criminals, Mohiuddin explained. “We saw a dramatic increase in cybersecurity incidents in health care,” he said. Following a rapid diagnostic, collaboration with industry, Congress and the White House, HHS got its cybersecurity police guidelines approved in the budget, which went public in December.  

“All of this stuff we’re doing on the technological innovation side doesn’t mean a thing if we’re not taking care of our people,” Mohiuddin stated.