Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s Chief Techie, on Building a Startup-Friendly Region and Why Now is the Best Time to be an Innovator in America

5/9/11Follow @curtwoodward

As chief technology officer for the Obama administration, Aneesh Chopra has been heavily involved in efforts to expand access to huge amounts of government data, and encourage techies and entrepreneurs to help solve public policy problems using that data. Xconomy’s Wade Roush talked with Chopra last year, producing this in-depth Q&A that included discussions about healthcare innovation, the government’s role in baiting entrepreneurs with competitions, and big data feeding commercial solutions.

Since then, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative called Startup America, a public-private partnership that aims to boost the economy by improving the conditions for entrepreneurs. Chopra has been among the key evangelists of this effort, which he described as “the national call to arms, so to speak, around the opportunities to promote high-growth entrepreneurship.”

As a preview to his appearance tomorrow at the Technology Alliance’s State of Technology Luncheon, I spoke with Chopra about the administration’s efforts, the role of the private sector, and what it takes to produce results that last beyond the next State of the Union speech.

One of his big messages includes a strong dose of economic optimism: “It is my thesis that there’s never been a better time to be an innovator than today, especially when tackling the big challenges that are in front of us.” Specifically, he calls out the nation’s systems for healthcare, education, and energy.

In healthcare, the focus of Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative for his first term, Chopra says there are “three forces that are coming into play that we believe will act as rocket fuel for innovators.”

The first is changing the way society pays for health services.

“In this country, you get what you pay for. And if Medicare pays people more if they perform more procedures, schedule more visits, then what you see is a pretty healthy growth in both of those areas. If you incentivize value, which is making sure people stay healthy, we believe that shift in payments will open up a new market for a range of IT-enabled services that do not exist today,” Chopra says.

The second trend spurring healthcare innovation, he said, is the modernization of health records and information, allowing better sharing among providers and other actors in the system.

“We will have an unprecedented transformation in the healthcare sector to digitize healthcare information that today is locked up in a file cabinet. And we have put in place the technical foundation for that data to be liberated with full respect to patient privacy and security,” Chopra says. “It’s not just the fact that the information is now digital, it’s that it’s now more liquid and accessible.”

The third force boosting entrepreneurship in healthcare, Chopra says, is throwing open the doors to vast troves of government data. The Department of Health and Human Services, he says, … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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