FEDTECH: How does this happen in a department with so many different operating divisions?
ARRIETA: If you look at HHS, we’re a holding company. We’re the largest financial services firm in the world. We are the largest research institute. We are the largest funder of research in the world. We run the sixth largest hospital system in the world. We’re unique.
I’m not trying to create a single system that facilitates how we do business. I’m trying to create an infrastructure that has access to an indexed data set and a core business service layer that’s the same. At the application layer, you have the ability to customize it. You have the ability to use commercial off-the-shelf technology — I’ll provide the data. Is access to data and information on $26.2 billion in annual spend valuable to you? If you don’t have infrastructure to share data and the data scientist doesn’t have access to data, then the data scientist doesn’t matter.
MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how your agency can successfully migrate data to modern architectures.
FEDTECH: What are the most important technological issues that HHS is facing right now?
ARRIETA: The biggest challenge that I think every agency that has a lot of data struggles with is, how do we cleanse data? How do we govern data? How do we move it in an automated fashion to a commercial cloud environment? How do we index it and make it available? Then how do we maximize the way we use data? And you have to have data that’s separate from business process, so that I can access the data in a flexible manner and on an as-needed basis when I need to use it. It’s very hard to actually extract data from workflow to drive insights. This is a sea change in terms of how we do business.
The next challenge is that we have a bunch of legacy systems. You really have to be smart as to how you move to the cloud. You need a capability where you can run your legacy infrastructure and your legacy applications, but you also have the flexibility to modernize by building new applications on modern infrastructure.
The last piece is acquisition. Just like in the private sector, you can have the greatest ideas in the world, but you have to be able to execute within federal laws. If you can’t execute, you’re not going to be able to achieve what you want to achieve. I think that those are some of the challenges that we face.
FEDTECH: What emerging technologies are interesting to you besides blockchain?
ARRIETA: We have a very big interest on behavioral-based identity at the edge of a network. It means using 240 indicators of behavior as a way to create identity on the network itself. Rather than just username and password, I can use your behavior. Who do you text? What apps do you use? How often do you text? I can use heart rate and gait as mechanisms to create and establish your identity.
We think that’s really interesting. For the private sector healthcare markets, we think it’s important because it allows us to enable the Internet of Things. For instance, using Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, we may be able to create IoT-enabled devices that unlock and provide access to users on the basis of behavioral-based identity, so that you no longer have to sit in an operating room with everything logged in, which is a huge cybersecurity risk. We think it can be transformational.
FEDTECH: How has technology helped HHS during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The response effort has shown us the importance of investing in burstable cloud capabilities because it allows us to ingest data from multiple sources. Cloud capabilities allow us to bring the data together quickly for more complex analysis. This gives us the ability to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help understand and hopefully flatten the curve. We are using these techniques right now to fight this invisible virus.
(Updated May 12 with additional information)