The power of data is driving innovation around cloud technologies and other pandemic-response efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services, and as health threats evolve the agency’s chief data officer is touting these benefits to encourage ongoing collaboration across the entire department’s footprint.
“We want to encourage better data sharing throughout the department, adopting a ‘better input, better insights’ mentality,” said Kevin Duvall, acting chief data officer of HHS during ACT-IAC’s April Health Community of Interest.
Duvall’s office spearheaded the ReImagine Data Insights Initiative, which will help drive department-wide data science and AI capabilities by streamlining data sharing, optimizing data access and increasing the availability of new analytic tools. Duvall hopes these new capabilities will reduce the amount of time to make data-driven decisions.
“My job is to connect the pieces and parts of the department and ensure that we’re using our data assets to the fullest extent,” he said. “We’re building core infrastructures at the department that support solid data sharing, analysis and evidence and data-driven results as a whole.”
Duvall, who was previously deputy CDO and assumed his current position in February, is doing this through fostering collaboration, developing new policies and services, and creating standards to improve data management and programs. The HHS Protect Public Data Hub, for example, provides information on the current state of the American health care system as the agency continues efforts around its pandemic response.
“HHS Protect is a data-sharing platform for COVID-19 … we layer in a bunch of different data sets to inform decision-makers and give them access to the information they need to plan effectively for COVID-19,” he said. “We also power many of the dashboards for the CDC COVID Data Tracker.”
The initiative also impacts the agency at large by incorporating tribal health data. HHS has worked with Indian Health Service to share information and drive a “whole-of-department” data-sharing strategy, Duvall said.
Over the past year, HHS has leveraged new cloud capabilities to better manage its COVID-19 data as well as for its identity and access management solutions for remote work environments.
HHS has also worked with the data science team to bolster its healthdata.gov website. The department publishes daily data sets and features tools like the community profile report, which shows how the nation is adapting to COVID-19.
But, Duvall explained, all these efforts are going to require increasing collaboration across the department.
“We have to start slow. If we move too fast and go too far, I think people will react negatively. This starts with collaboration that ‘happens at the speed of trust.’ My job is to make sure these conversations are happening,” Duvall said.
HHS Connect was established as a two-phase plan to create a more efficient way of collecting and using data. Under the first phase of the plan, HHS will create an internal catalogue to better understand data assets. Under the second phase, the department will then use its sets to leverage data assets to share data more efficiently.
“It’s a tool to build communities of practice and encourage data sharing across the department,” Duvall said. “This is ultimately designed to be the tool where data sharing and collaboration happens, as well as where collaboration on AI happens within the department.”
With a new artificial intelligence strategy released last year, Duvall and Chief AI Officer Oki Mek are working to develop communities of practice across the department.
“I believe AI is a team sport,” Mek said during an industry event last week. “We believe in collaboration. We stand to learn a lot from one another.”
“My job is to find the silver linings and apply them to our future,” Duvall said. “My office will make sure that we’re providing technology solutions, strategies and approaches to support data efforts across the government.”