The U.S. health care system increasingly relies on health information technology (health IT) for complete, accurate, and timely data and to ensure efficient operations of federal health agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In the case of the national vaccine effort, Operation Warp Speed (OWS), health IT plays a vital role in managing and tracking its effectiveness. Continue reading to learn more about health IT and OWS, as well as our work in this unprecedented initiative.
What is health IT?
Health IT refers to the electronic systems that agencies, health care professionals and patients use to store, process, share or analyze health information. It offers numerous benefits to health care, namely making an individual’s health information private and available when and where it’s needed.
“The value of IT has a lot to do with the ability to disseminate information across disparate organizations — it allows for data integration with succeeding systems to leverage information from one place and to be of value in another place,” AI-Vets Senior VP Julian Warrick says. “Only through IT can you achieve that level of integration with other systems and utilization of information from one system to another.”
Examples of health IT include electronic health records (EHR), remote patient monitoring (RPM), patient portals and electronic prescribing. These services make for rapid information sharing, reduced paperwork, secure access to information and higher quality of care.
What is OWS?
Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is the public-private vaccine development initiative launched by executive order in May 2020 to help accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The initiative is led by HHS and the Department of Defense (DoD).
OWS’ goal was to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines by January 2021. The accelerated pace at which vaccine companies worked to develop, test, manufacture and distribute coronavirus vaccines justifies the program’s name — the term “warp speed” was popularized by Star Trek in the 1960s and means traveling faster than light.
While the initiative was publicly revealed in April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an emergency use authorization for the first vaccine dose just eight months later. By the end of March 2021, the program reached 80% of its goal.
To date, more than 366 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and over 172 million Americans (51.9% of the U.S. population) are fully vaccinated. This month, the FDA also issued the first COVID-19 vaccine approval.
What is IT’s main role in OWS?
One of the most critical applications of health IT in OWS is vaccine allocation. This requires a flexible, scalable, secure web-based vaccine tracking system.
To distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Palantir Technologies Inc. built a new software platform called Tiberius (a reference to Stark Trek Captain James Tiberius Kirk).
Tiberius integrates data related to manufacturing, supply chain, allocation, state and territory planning, delivery and administration of the vaccine. This allows for granular planning all the way down to the doctor’s office, with a ZIP code-by-ZIP code view of priority populations.
Each week, HHS officials examine vaccine production estimates and inventory to determine how many to send states and territories. Then, state and territory public health officials check the system’s dashboard to learn how many vaccines are heading their way and where they should go. Tiberius tracks these shipments directly to providers.
The platform is currently available to states, a few major cities and counties, territories, federal agencies, manufacturers and pharmacies.
How is AI-Vets supporting OWS?
One of the biggest challenges with implementing Tiberius was that public health officials had little time to learn the new and complex system. In response, OWS hired a major health IT provider to staff IT professionals for each jurisdiction.
AI-Vets, with a proven track record of success and a strong business development initiative, serves as a subcontractor to this IT provider by supplying qualified data support personnel. These individuals are often called upon to directly engage with regional managers tasked with monitoring and tracking vaccine data.
The company rapidly identified IT staff that not only had the requisite data support skills, but also good customer engagement capabilities, says Warrick.
“AI-Vets has achieved success with smaller contracts, which has opened up the potential for other engagements. Our support for Operation Warp Speed is an extension of our proven success — we were able to identify critical resources and apply them quickly,” he says.
AI-Vets continues to support HHS in this imperative initiative as a subcontractor through October 2021.