Navy medical personnel aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy docked at the Port of Los Angeles treat a non-COVID-19 patient from a Los Angeles-area medical facility (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano/U.S. Navy via AP)

2020 Government Innovation Awards

HHS Protect: The foundation of COVID response

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced rapid change across government but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than at the Department of Health and Human Services. Formulating the government’s response required accurate information about the virus’ spread and impact, but that data simply wasn’t available in a usable form.

HHS Protect Platform

Department of Health and Human Services

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HHS Protect was launched in April to fill that gap. The initial build was done in a matter of days, and by midsummer, the platform was providing visibility into more than 4 billion data elements from 225 sources. The platform includes data on rates of infection, hospitalizations and fatalities, as well as demographic details, medical supply inventories and policy decisions. Every data element includes time-series information to ensure accuracy and transparency so that users can confidently act on the insights HHS Protect provides.

In addition, robust identity and access management allows multiple federal agencies, all U.S. states and territories, and a wide range of nongovernmental partners to collaborate efficiently and securely.

Built almost entirely with interoperable commercial technologies from Palantir, Amazon Web Services, Okta, Esri, DataRobot and others, HHS Protect offers community-level analysis of data, subject to very granular access controls. In addition, HHS is applying machine learning models to the data to help officials anticipate emerging risks and respond proactively as the pandemic evolves.

Data alone can’t bring the COVID-19 crisis under control, and the nationwide spikes this fall are making it clear that the government’s response is still a work in progress. But an effective effort requires secure and accurate data sharing across all levels of government and with private-sector partners, which HHS Protect provides on an unprecedented scale.

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