Thursday , June 24 2021

HHS publishes strategy to align AI efforts

HHS has published an artificial-intelligence strategy outlining the department’s approach to using and regulating AI, which includes setting up an HHS AI Council to spearhead its efforts.

The AI strategy, developed over the last year and designed to align AI priorities across the department, is the latest sign of HHS ramping up its AI focus.

The Food and Drug Administration recently released a five-pronged action plan to underpin its approach to regulating medical software with AI or machine learning components and HHS last month named Oki Mek, formerly a senior adviser to the HHS chief information officer, its first-ever chief artificial intelligence officer.

Mek earlier this week shared the HHS AI strategy, which was developed during the Trump administration, in a post on LinkedIn, thanking former HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and former HHS Associate Deputy Secretary Charles Keckler for their work leading the project. Mek will co-chair the AI Council that leads executing the strategy.

“As the department builds upon its current capabilities and adapts to a changing environment and emerging technology, HHS recognizes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a critical enabler of its mission in the future,” the eight-page AI strategy report reads. “An enterprise AI strategy will provide direction and guidance in achieving the department’s AI ambition.”

The overarching vision behind the strategy, according to the report, is for HHS to work with academia, industry and other government agencies to leverage AI to “solve previously unsolvable problems” by spearheading advancements for Americans’ health and well-being and scaling adoption of “trustworthy AI” across the department.

The strategy is also meant to guide a new AI Council at the department, which is charged with executing on the AI strategy’s four focus areas: building the HHS workforce’s familiarity with AI, encouraging health AI research and development, making AI tools and resources more accessible across the department, and promoting trustworthy and ethical AI development.

The AI Council will comprise leaders from HHS operating and staff divisions and the council’s chair will be designated as a senior official that reports to the HHS secretary, according to NextGov, which first reported the news. Mek will serve as the AI Council’s co-chair.

The AI Council will support AI governance, communicate AI priorities to HHS agencies, develop performance plans and implementation timelines, promote partnerships with public and private groups to support AI innovations, and convene an AI “community of practice,” as well as continue to develop and refine AI priorities for the department.

The community of practice, which will include AI experts across HHS agencies, will provide support for agencies scaling AI pilots and use cases that align with the AI Council’s priorities.

The AI Council will develop a report on its progress each year for the HHS secretary and HHS management council.

The AI strategy builds on previous work from HHS agencies, including the FDA’s work toward developing regulatory frameworks for AI software and the National Institutes of Health funding research into AI-based projects, according to the report, and is aligned with two executive orders on AI signed by former President Donald Trump.

“This strategy is the first step towards transforming HHS into an AI fueled enterprise,” the report reads. “This strategy lays the foundation upon which the AI Council can use to drive change across the department by encouraging the application of AI to promote advances in the sciences, public health, and social services—improving the quality of life for all Americans.”

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