July 20, 2023 Episode 56

Is AI Policy a Bigger Undertaking Than Meaningful Use? Kristen McGovern Thinks So

DC insider and Partner at Sirona Strategies, Kristen McGovern, provides a behind the scenes look the government offices and agencies shaping the healthcare industry.

Is AI Policy a Bigger Undertaking Than Meaningful Use? Kristen McGovern Thinks So

Earning a Presidential Management Fellowship after law school gave Kristen McGovern firsthand experience working inside many of the agencies and offices that drive U.S. healthcare policy. Over a two year period with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) she worked at organizations including the National Cancer Institute and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). She eventually landed at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) just as the HITECH Act was signed into law in 2009, dedicating nearly $30 billion to modernizing healthcare IT.

As the executive office that oversees the federal budget and federal agencies, Kristen worked closely with leadership at OMB and HHS as they deployed funding for Meaningful Use and other programs catalyzed by the landmark legislation.

In 2010, around the same time the Affordable Care Act was passed into law, Kristen was recruited by Farzad Mostashari (a previous guest on the Healthcare is Hard podcast) and became chief of staff at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

These experiences launched a career that has put Kristen at the forefront of federal healthcare policy and politics. She is currently partner at Sirona Strategies, a healthcare consulting firm she co-founded to advise organizations – from startups to the Fortune 500 – on healthcare policy.

Some of the topics Kristen talked to Keith Figlioli about on this episode of the Healthcare is Hard podcast include:

  • A pulse check on DC. Kristen shared insight into the offices and agencies shaping the healthcare industry from inside the beltway. For example, she talked about the current state of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the activity she says is happening “below the surface” and how the organization is at an inflection point after more than a decade testing payment and delivery system models.
  • The evolution of Meaningful Use. Looking back at her time at ONC, Kristen talks about the initial goals of encouraging EHR adoption to unlock insight from paper records that were sitting in filing cabinets. She talks about progress the industry has made and the current goals of making sure organizations can access and use data in new and innovative ways. In other words, ensuring we haven’t just created electronic filing cabinets.
  • The size and scope of AI Policy. With all the enthusiasm about artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, Kristen talks about the process of putting guardrails around this powerful technology. She says it will require a large-scale collaborative effort across HHS and other government agencies, and believes it will ultimately be an even bigger undertaking than Meaningful Use.
  • Policy advice for startups. As a highly regulated industry, every organization that touches healthcare needs to be aware of the impact current and future policy decisions could have on their business. Kristen shared advice about how she helps startups think through the impact of policy decisions, and when and how to embed policy experts in a business.

To hear Keith and Kristen talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders.