DHS’ Hidden Signals Challenge to improve tracking of biological and epidemiological threats

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is on the biothreat/pandemic train–not quite in time for this bad influenza season, but perhaps for next–in developing an accelerator to fund companies researching mapping potential disease outbreaks. The DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) is collaborating with the Office of Health Affairs National Biosurveillance Integration Center on finding novel ways to use existing data that will identify signals and achieve timelier alerts for biothreats from the local level up. 

Five companies won Stage 1 of the Challenge and were awarded $20,000 grants:

  • The Commuter Pattern Analysis for Early Biothreat Detection program, developed by Readiness Acceleration & Innovation Network (RAIN). This is designed to recognize commuter absenteeism to flag a possible disease outbreak.
  • Monitoring Emergency Department Wait Times to Detect Emergent Influenza Pandemics, developed by Vituity. This tracks spikes in emergency room wait times from a network of 142 hospitals in 19 states that can be attributed to emergent flu pandemics. 
  • The One Health Alert System. This program analyzes the Daily Disease Report’s top 10 symptoms, reported by 43 healthcare providers in North Carolina.
  • Pandemic Pulse, developed by the Computational Epidemiology Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. This gathers data from Twitter, Google Search, HealthMap and transportation and news sites, then compares that to live transportation data and Flu Near You.
  • Pre-syndromic Surveillance. This AI-based platform detects emerging clusters of rare disease cases that do not correspond to known syndrome types through real-time emergency room chief complaint data with social media and news data.

In Stage 2 from now through April, finalists will further develop their concepts into detailed system designs with guidance from expert mentors. The winner, to be announced later this Spring, will receive the $200,000 grand prize. DHS Hidden Signals Challenge website, Challenge blog, mHealth Intelligence

Cerner DoD deployment on time; Coast Guard EHR shopping; Air Force, VA sharing teleICU

The US Department of Defense announced that the deployment of Cerner’s EHR MHS Genesis at the Naval Hospital in Oak Harbor, Washington is on time for later this month. It’s a little unusual that anything this big and in the government is actually on time. It’s also meaningful for VA, as they are adopting MHS Genesis in an equally, if not longer, rollout [TTA 7 June]. Healthcare IT News

Less well known is the Coast Guard‘s dropping its costly six-year deployment of the Epic EHR last year and reverting to paper. They are not in the MHS Genesis rollout because the CG is part of the Department of Homeland Security, despite its service roots and structure similar to the US Navy. This has led to much speculation that their final choice will be DoD’s Cerner platform, although the OpenEMR Consortium has already answered their April RFI.

And even less noticed was the late June announcement that the US Air Force Medical Operations Agency and the VA are implementing a tele-ICU sharing arrangement, giving the USAF access to the VA’s capabilities at five AF locations: Las Vegas; Hampton, Virginia; Biloxi, Mississippi; Dayton, Ohio; and Anchorage, Alaska. The VA central tele-ICU facility is in Minneapolis. Doctors there can remotely consult, prescribe medications, order procedures and make diagnoses through live electronic monitoring. Becker’s Hospital Review, VA press release