TR:That method might find you a disruptive technology–but on health IT, aren’t there plenty of well-established electronic medical records technologies out there?
AC: Yes, but to receive stimulus funds, health-care providers will have to demonstrate meaningful use of technology to improve care quality, lower costs, or improve patient engagement and communication. I am focused on helping ensure the “meaningful use” criteria are designed to spur health reform and promote new products or services. Today, we don’t have benchmarks differentiating the various products. When we do, we are confident the market will drive towards better value in achieving them.
TR:Is “meaningful use” an idea that should be more broadly applied?
AC: I would love to see this model apply in other areas where we see policy benefit in the adoption and use of IT.
TR:On the smart-grid, power utilities can prove “meaningful use” of existing technologies by documenting reduced electricity demand. Right now, though, the investment decisions are left mainly to 50 sets of state regulators and local utilities, and implementation is spotty. How can the federal government fix this?
AC: The federal role there has been very clear. First, we are seeding capital investment in this space through the Recovery Act–$4.5 billion for matching funds and demonstration projects. These initial projects are crucial to proving the value of the smart grid. Once the business case has been demonstrated, we believe that state and local decision-makers will continue investing in the build-out. Secondly, we are working through NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] on open standards to ensure the interoperability, reliability, and security of the smart grid. As we saw with the Internet, open standards enable innovation and scalability. These federal initiatives are complementary and in a collaborative spirit with state regulators and industry.
TR:Looking past these initial efforts, you are working on a broader policy document about spurring innovation. Can you give us at least a broad outline of what a national innovation policy would look like? What would it cover? What would be its goals?
AC: The Administration has three key goals for strengthening America’s competitiveness and driving innovation. The first is improving the environment for private-sector innovation. This includes efforts to make the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent, to encourage small businesses with targeted capital-gains tax reductions and improved access to capital, and to reform our patent system.
Second, we must invest in the building blocks of innovation such as human capital, fundamental research, and infrastructure. The president has committed to double the budgets of key science agencies, triple the number of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, improve public school performance in science and math, and restore America’s leadership in college attainment.
Finally, we must harness innovation to address key national priorities, including accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, allowing Americans to lead longer, healthier lives, and making government more open and transparent. All of this must be done with a view towards concrete measurable outcomes.