On June 2 of last year, around 400 people gathered at the National Academy of Sciences building in D.C. Three months prior to this event, on March 11, Park had met with about 45 leaders in the health care and tech industries. The two sides had never met each other before, in fact they probably didn't know each other existed. Standing at the front of the room, Park told them that starting within the next few days, his team would begin releasing massive amounts of health care data across all the various agencies under HHS (some of it had already been released, but in obscure locations not easily accessible). Their task, if they chose to accept it, would be to spend the next 90 days building technology tools around that data. The ones that succeeded would be able to present their creations at the National Academy of Sciences for what had been named the Community Health Data Initiative Forum.
This kind of entrepreneurial corralling is evident in all the work Park has done so far since joining HHS. "I have no budget," he said. "I have no formal team. I don't control any government contracts. I don't control any grants. It's perfect, because it actually gives you the kind of freedom to maneuver, to really be a change agent." When he started the job, he created what he calls a virtual startup model. "The idea is you find a particular idea or initiative that you want to get going. And the first thing that I do is I find the three to five people at HHS who had that idea a long time ago, who have been obsessing about it, who know a lot more about it than I do, who have connections and data and resources and people that they can throw in the mix. And then I recruit them to join a virtual startup to do this thing."
Given his roots, it's not surprising Park is trying to run his department like a Silicon Valley company. The deadlines his teams set are no longer than 90 days out, in fact they're often shorter. Each project moves at a rapid velocity, with him acting as the virtual startup's CEO. Once one reaches maturation, he hands it off and then moves onto the next virtual startup.
At the June 2 event, the people he'd met with 90 days prior came together and showcased 20 tools they'd either improved upon or built from scratch using the newly released data. The idea, Park said, was to maximize publicity for these tools by revealing them all at once. And then following this round of publicity, he hoped other companies he hadn't met with would catch wind of the data and begin creating tools of their own, spawning a self-perpetuating arms race that would generate new tools at a faster and faster rate. The end goal -- or the indicator of Park's success -- would be when he no longer needed to publicize the data at all.
Though the tools displayed for the forum had only been created in the span of 90 days, it wasn't difficult to immediately grasp their intrinsic worth. For its contribution, Microsoft began pulling information from an HHS site called Hospital Compare. The site contains detailed quality and patient satisfaction information from hospitals across the country, but a recent survey found that 94 percent of Americans don't even know it exists. Microsoft downloaded the information and then integrated it into Bing's search, so now when you perform a search for any particular hospital, in addition to Bing's normal Web results you'll also receive -- in a gray box -- the patient satisfaction for that particular hospital versus the state average, followed by a link to more information. That link sends users to hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. Park used Bing recently to determine which hospital will help in delivering his second child. "We're eating our own dog food, as it were," he said, laughing.//hospitalcompare.hhs.gov>