Health IT

Homeland Security wants to improve public health transparency

The Department of Homeland Security plans to purchase a public health information-sharing platform to improve its communication with health partners across the country as part of the government’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak.

The department is procuring a Medical Public Health Information Sharing Environment for DHS’ Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, which is in charge of mitigating chemical, biological, nuclear and health security threats. The purchase is expected to help coordinate discussions, perform data analysis and model emerging pandemics with public health partners.

The contract was awarded to Efiia Consulting, which will provide a collaborative, cloud-based platform as well as subject matter experts to assist with DHS’ response to COVID-19, the name of the new disease.

The performance period is one year. The total cost was redacted from public record.

The platform and experts provided by Efiia will allow DHS CWMD to prepare to respond to the outbreak. Currently, the office severely “lacks the ability to engage and coordinate with the medical and public health community at the pace and scale necessary to conduct an effective COVID-19 response.”

“DHS CWMD does not currently have access to a collaborative environment to allow reporting and analyzing of emerging risks/features of COVID-19. In the interim, emails are being used, but emails are unsecured, have branching discussion threads, have attachments that get lost, have participants that get dropped unintentionally and have new ones added on the fly, and reference dynamic datasets that are external to the emails and have variable persistence and provenance,” acquisition officials wrote in the limited source justification. “The current methods are not scalable to coordinate the increasingly complex response as the epidemic unfolds variably across the nation.”

Efiia has experience working with federal agencies during major outbreaks. In 2009, the company assisted numerous federal agencies with a medical information-sharing environment to manage the swine flu outbreak. That collaboration platform allowed access to sensitive health data for about 300 government officials and 10,000 public health experts.

“The majority of the activities that Efiia’s personnel performed in 2009 for DHS’ [swine flu] response are critical to meet the minimum basic requirements for DHS CWMD’s 2020 response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” acquisition officials wrote in award justification.

As of March 26, there were 54,453 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 737 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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