The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted this week a first-of-its-kind two-day Code-a-Thon to use data and technology to develop new solutions to address the opioid epidemic.
Fifty teams, comprised of three to five members of computer programmers, public health advocates, and innovators worked on developing data-driven solutions that can have immediate and practical impacts on the opioid epidemic. During the Code-a-Thon, teams used data from HHS and other federal agencies, some of it released for the first time, to analyze trends and patterns and propose solutions in three challenge areas.
Out of the 50 teams competing, nine teams were selected for the final judging round. The three winners were awarded $10,000 prizes.
In the prevention track, coders focused on developing solutions to help federal, state, and local stakeholders predict and analyze the supply and movement of legal and illicit opioids. The Visionist Inc. team came up with a program called Take Back America, to assess the unmet need in five states for takeback programs at pharmacies where unused or unneeded opioids can be returned, therefore taking a source of opioids out of circulation.
In the treatment track, coders worked to develop solutions to help federal, state, and local stakeholders improve access to effective treatment and recovery services. The Origami Innovations team, from Yale University, produced a model designed for real-time tracking of overdoses, allowing first responders and health authorities to be prepared for tracking events such as an outbreak of fentanyl overdoses in communities. The real-time tracking would enable area hospitals and local health departments to allocate resources where they are most needed.
In the usage track, coders developed solutions to enable federal, state, and local stakeholders to better identify at-risk populations and their underlying risk characteristics of opioid misuse or abuse. The Opioid Prescriber Awareness Tool (OPAT) team developed a program to provide physicians with a visual representation of their opioid prescribing patterns compared with their peers. The tool also allows physicians to visualize the prescribing patterns of other physicians in their area that they might refer their patients to.
“HHS’ code-a-thon was a major step forward in the efforts to use data to address the opioid crisis,” Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement. “The innovative ideas developed today could turn into tomorrow’s solutions as we work to combat the scourge of opioid addiction sweeping the nation. On behalf of the administration, I commend all of our technology partners and the HHS staff for their hard work on this unprecedented event.”
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