September 25, 2021

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The Future of AI in Health and Human Services

16 min read

As the largest public health department in the world, the U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS) is a standard-bearer for global public health practices. One of the ways HHS leads is by pioneering the use of new technologies in the health and human services spaces to see how they may be applied more broadly across our operating and staff divisions and the programs they administer. One example of this is Artificial Intelligence, or simply “AI”. Far from being the hostile world-ending singularity we have come to know (and fear) thanks to fictional depictions, AI is actually a tool we use and even regulate at HHS to make our jobs more efficient and increase the value of our work.

In fact, HHS has already made many advances in the use of AI. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been developing a regulatory framework for AI/machine learning (ML)-driven software to provide industry with appropriate safety and effectiveness guidelines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has collaborated and invested in AI-based projects to discover health solutions across research and medical settings, including using AI to analyze biomedical imaging to diagnose diseases such as COVID-19. Through ReImagine HHS‘s Buy Smarter initiative, we utilized AI to modernize the department’s acquisition process to achieve over $1 billion in projected savings and cost avoidance over ten years, including a single contract with over $700 million in savings. We also used AI to analyze HHS regulations, resulting in a first-of-its-kind regulatory “clean-up” initiative across several HHS agencies. And this is just a start.

While the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: AI will be a critical enabler of our mission. To combat 21st century threats to the health and well-being of all Americans, we need a 21st century playbook that supports a sensible use of, and familiarity with, AI. Which is why, today, we are announcing the next step in HHS’s journey to enterprise-wide AI adoption.

HHS is proud to announce its first enterprise Artificial Intelligence Strategy, developed over the last year through engagement with experts and stakeholders throughout the Department. This strategy will be carried forward and refined through a new AI Council and an AI Community of Practice, and is intended, like the field it covers, to evolve and adapt. Our new strategy, governance, and commitment to collaboration will position us to coordinate the great work in AI and machine learning already happening within HHS divisions, and to effectively implement Executive Order 13960 promoting the use of trustworthy AI in the federal government. We will foster, adapt to, and benefit from the extraordinary innovations emerging from the synthesis of health and human services, big data and computer science, and will maintain our role as the civilian agency leader in making wide – and wise – use of these transformative technologies.

Our vision: “Together with its partners in academia, industry and government, HHS will leverage AI to solve previously unsolvable problems by continuing to lead advances in the health and wellbeing of the American people, responding to the use of AI across the health and human services ecosystem, and scaling trustworthy AI adoption across the Department.”

This vision recognizes that the Department has multiple roles in AI – as a developer and early adopter for the use of AI in its own operations, as a regulator of new devices, technologies and techniques, as an investor through its grant-making, and especially as we go forward, as an overall catalyst and accelerator for the fields of health and human services. This will require intentional openness and deliberate engagement with innovators who share our mission to enhance the health and wellbeing of the American people.

Please read our entire strategy and consider how you could contribute to this new era at HHS.

More from: By: Office of the Secretary

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