AHRQ Social Determinants of Health Challenge Enters Exciting Second Phase!

By Gopal Khanna, M.B.A., Director of AHRQ
Twitter: @AHRQNews

I am excited to announce that AHRQ has reached an important milestone in one of its ongoing challenge competitions. We’ve selected 12 semifinalists in our Visualization Resources of Community-Level Social Determinants of Health Challenge.

We understand that medical care alone is insufficient for ensuring better health outcomes. And, indeed, HHS Secretary Alex Azar noted in a speech earlier this year that we need to develop strategies to protect the health and well-being of all Americans. A key component of realizing that vision is for us to reimagine how evidence-based research can help provide tools to improve delivery of whole person-oriented care in an age that is increasingly defined by data.

Social determinants of health are among the many factors that affect people’s well-being, such as education, adequate income, employment opportunities, proximity to healthy food, safe housing, community support, transportation options, social support, and exposure to crime. Data on social determinants of health may be obtained from diverse sources and in a variety of formats.

When combined with more traditional healthcare data, they may help policymakers, public health officials, researchers, advocates, providers of social services, and others better address community health challenges. However, these data often aren’t easily available or available in formats that allow users to act on them.

That’s why this challenge is integral to our vision that AHRQ continue and expand its lead role in national efforts to advance digital healthcare. My colleagues and I at AHRQ are committed to finding new, cutting-edge strategies to improve patient care through broader use of data.

The challenge—one of three AHRQ challenges currently in process—asked participants to produce innovative online tools to present and encourage the use of free, publicly available social determinants of health data to better understand and predict communities’ unmet healthcare needs.

In particular, challenge participants were asked to develop visualization tools that draw information from at least three or more free, publicly available data sources, whether Federal, State, or local, including voice and digital assistance requests via service lines, such as 911 emergency services, 311 community services, and 211 personal referrals for community services.

The challenge, launched in March of this year, is structured in two phases. In the just-completed Phase 1, participants submitted concept abstracts and prototype designs of data visualization methods. Of more than 40 entrants, AHRQ has selected 12 finalists. Each will receive $10,000. The finalists are (in alphabetical order):

  • Anne Arundel Medical Center
    Annapolis, MD
  • Beefers
    Denver, CO
  • Customer Value Partners
    Fairfax, VA
  • Edward Nunes
    Richmond, VA
  • Emrify Labs
    Nashville, TN
  • George Trapaidze
    North Potomac, MD
  • IMPAQ International, LLC
    Columbia, MD
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
    Boston, MA
  • Mathematica
    Cambridge, MA
  • PCD Consulting
    Cambridge, MA
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Troy, NY
  • University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, MN

In Phase 2, the semifinalists will develop proofs-of-concept, which will be judged by an expert panel. One grand prize winner will win $50,000. Up to $35,000 will be awarded to the 2nd place winner, and up to $15,000 will be awarded to the 3rd place winner based on the performance of their visualization tools.

The creativity and innovative thinking shown by the competitors has been inspiring. Their efforts will ultimately help the healthcare system get a deeper understanding of population-level behavior and the societal factors that must be considered when providing coordinated, whole-person care. Congratulations to the winners of Phase 1. We are eager to see what the next phase brings!

This article was originally published on AHRQ Views Blog and is republished here with permission.