- President Donald Trump tapped son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner to head a new White House Office of American Innovation, USA Today reports.
- “As some of its first priorities, the office will focus on modernizing the technology of every federal department, identifying transformational infrastructure projects and re-imagining the VA system so they can better serve our nation’s heroes,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
- The office will also focus on the opioid abuse crisis in the U.S., and Trump is expected to name New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead that effort.
While healthcare wasn't specifically mentioned outside of the opioid piece of the announcement, the target areas as well as some of the associated players have ties to healthcare industry.
The VA has been immersed in scandal over its disability claims backlog as well as a scheduling scandal that revealed the depth of wait-time falsification at the agency. The agency is also on the precipice of switching to a commercial EHR. The opioid crisis has been gripping the nation. Healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers in 2012 while opiate-related overdose deaths in the U.S. increased 200% between 2000 and 2014.
The Obama administration was fighting the opioid crisis and the Trump administration looks to be tackling the issue as well. Under the Obama administration, major innovation endeavors focused on science and technology, including the Precision Medicine Initiative, Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot and the Paris climate agreement. HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT also made strides in improving EHR use and interoperability.
Working with Kushner in the innovation office are veterans of the private sector, including former Goldman Sachs executives Gary Cohn, currently director of the National Economic Council, and Dina Habib Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security advisor. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, will collaborate with the office in an unofficial capacity on issues such as workforce development.
The office — tasked with overhauling the federal bureaucracy — has already been meeting twice weekly with such industry leaders as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Some government functions could be privatized in the process.
Apple in particular seems to have a soft spot for the healthcare industry despite not publicly revealing its master plan for the industry (if it does indeed have one). Salesforce has also made some plays into the healthcare space.
Following in the wake of the AHCA, the newly minted office, while not explicitly taking up the cause, does have individuals interested in the healthcare industry so the likelihood the group explores at least a conversation over broader healthcare strategy isn't out of the question.