AFCEA Holds HIT Summit

The Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association’s (AFCEA) Bethesda Chapter held their 12th annual Health IT Summit which brought together more than a thousand senior executives and technology professionals from government and industry.

The Summit included a fireside chat with James Byrne, Deputy Secretary and James Gfrerer, Chief Information Officer and Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology both at the Veterans Administration. Troy K. Schneifer, Editor-in-Chief at FCW and GCN, moderated the fireside chat.

The conversation began with the Deputy Secretary explaining how three or four building blocks are involved in the modernization effort at the VA. Priorities include modernizing customer services, implementing and upgrading community care in communities, modernizing the supply chain by utilizing technology, upgrading the electronic health record, and dealing effectively to reduce suicides in the veteran population.

James Gfrerer, talked about effectively migrating data and information to the cloud but to migrate to the cloud, it is necessary to adopt an effective cloud strategy  The goal is to have one half of the data migrated to the cloud by 2024.

A panel discussion was held with CXOs moderated by Jason Miller, Executive Editor at the Federal News Network. Panelists included Jose Arrieta Deputy Assistant Secretary at HHS, Dominic Cussatt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for IT and Deputy CIO at the VA, Thomas Patrick Flanders, MHS Chief Information Officer at the Defense Health Agency (DHA), and Rajiv Uppal, Director of the Office of Information Technology and CIO at CMS.

The panelists discussed the key steps needed to address challenges in transforming and upgrading modernization efforts should:

  • Concentrate on a human centered design to meet essential information needs and pilot emerging technologies
  • Migrate to the cloud and strengthen cyber address cybersecurity and keep updating security as needed
  • Make provisions so that there is no break in clinical care
  • Provide hardware and software to support both the DHA and the VA in order to modernize or replace aging equipment
  • Provide for an IT workforce that will achieve interoperability
  • Look for opportunities to use robotics not only with patients but also to address claims
  • Use artificial intelligence and deep analytics to deal with huge amounts of data, to identify patients that may be on opioids, identify trends applying to patient risks in hospitals, and us AI to provide information related to the prevention of  suicides
  • Build the infrastructure needed to provide adequate outreach to the rural community in terms of the use of telehealth and telemedicine
  • Be open to partnerships with not only the Federal government but also with industry
  • Cut layers of overhead to keep costs down and make sure that customers understand billing


Another panel discussion was held with Dr. Les Folio, Lead Computed Tomography Radiologist, NIH Clinical Center, as Moderator. The panelists addressed “AI & Digital Ops: The Future and Present of Health IT”.

Panelists included Ken Rubin, Director of Standards and Interoperability for the Office of Knowledge-based Systems at VHA, Oki Mek, Senior Advisor to the CIO at HHS, Cory Milam, Director, Office of Innovation within the Office of IT and Management at FDA, and Milan Shah Director, Division of Reinsurance Operations, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, CMS.

Cory Milan at FDA, pointed out that technology modernization requires understanding the scale of data. The Federal government needs help to handle the massive amount of data through the use of artificial intelligence.

Milan Shah from CMS, collects and manages data to determine trends that will be affecting policies. She studies how AI can help insurance companies analyze data and determine the financial impact.

Looking at how data can be effectively used, Oki Mek discussed how HHS is using machine learning to cleanse data. HHS is also looking to blockchain to help others share data so that recommendations could be authorized sooner.

Questions and issues still remain as to how AI, and machine learning will effectively meet the needs of our   society. For example, if AI or a new technology is used and the consumer is injured—who is to blame? Are there ethical issues associated with the use of the new technologies? Is the Federal government or industry going to be able to enforce existing laws or regulations for AI and other new technologies? Lastly, how are new technologies such as AI going to affect competition?

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