Innovators Connect at Industry Days

Updated May 8, 2023

Working with industry partners can help focus public health efforts and speed our response. As we improve public health data and technology through major national efforts like CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative, we’re seeking to make public-private connections more open and equitable.

In February 2023, the CDC Foundation hosted the CDC and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) Industry Information and Collaboration Days to forge partnerships and get public health and industry professionals in the same room–and on the same page. Over two days, more than 1,600 in-person and online attendees listened, learned, and shared exciting ideas about the future of public health data.

The event offered an unprecedented show of unity across the federal government, combining many voices into a single vision of what public health can be. It was led jointly by the ONC and three of CDC’s most technology-focused offices: the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology (OPHDST), the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), and the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA).

Day 1: Igniting the vision

Senator Tim Kaine shares his passion for data modernization at Industry Day

Senator Tim Kaine shares his passion for data modernization with a large crowd. Photo: Agnes Warner, CDC

The first day’s theme was “vision,” with a focus on learning from public health. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, kicked the event off by emphasizing Industry Day’s importance, saying, “to modernize, we must engage with industry. And we cannot wait for the next public health emergency to do so.”

CDC Foundation President Judy Monroe echoed the sentiment. “Together, our impact is greater… we can save and improve lives by unleashing this power of collaboration.”

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a longtime proponent of modernizing public health data, noted the “tremendous upside opportunity” we have in moving toward real-time data collection and sharing. He told the audience he’s a big believer in public-private partnerships.

“I’ve seen them work again, and again, and again during my public service career,” Kaine said.

The main purpose of the day was to inform the industry about CDC’s and ONC’s strategic direction for our data and information systems, and the need for support and collaboration.

ONC’s Micky Tripathi explained the significant shifts around data standards and data exchange and what’s needed to make them a reality.

“This can’t happen just from a private-sector perspective. It can’t happen just from a public sector perspective,” he said. “It really requires public-private engagement on an ongoing basis to be able to do the things that we all need to do.”

CDC leaders discussed how industry and the public sector can work together to meet a shared public health mission. They also sat on a panel and answered questions from the audience, both in-person and virtually.

CFA Director Dylan George, PhD, said that public health needs to partner with industry to move data more quickly during a crisis, adding that better data supports better analytics, which results in better outbreak response for our nation.

CDC Chief Information Officer and Director of OCIO Suzi Connor discussed how, in phase two of the Data Modernization Initiative, her office will focus on ensuring “a secure, interoperable data and technology infrastructure that can scale up or scale down at any point in time.”

As the newly formed OPHDST begins leading a first-ever Public Health Data Strategy, “it will be critical for CDC to work with our state and local partners, healthcare partners, and private industry partners,” said Jennifer Layden, MD, PhD, Acting Director for OPHDST.

A panel of CDC and ONC leaders host a discussion

A panel of CDC and ONC leaders host a discussion on the first day of the event. Photo: Agnes Warner, CDC

To help industry partners better understand public health’s needs, Angela Dunn, MD, MPH, Executive Director at Salt Lake County Health Department and CSTE President, shared “a day in the life” of a local or state public health department, where daily tasks range from working on infectious diseases like COVID-19 and foodborne illness to non-infectious challenges like suicides, opioid overdoses, or natural disasters.

“A lot of technology that has come out is very healthcare-system focused, and we need to figure out how to translate that to public health. What we do is different,” Dunn noted.

Dunn encouraged attendees to consider public health early in the lifecycle of development, not as an afterthought.

“The private sector has this cadre of creative, forward-thinking, fast-paced risk takers that can partner with the public health sector that’s full of passionate, committed people who are there to protect and secure the health of their communities. When they come together…magic can happen,” she said.

Day 2: Listening, learning, and looking forward

The second day focused on learning and collaborating with industry. It provided a unique forum for CDC and ONC to work with and learn from different industry experts, including healthcare providers, software and systems developers, academia, consultants, and other private and non-profit organizations.

During the day’s sessions, participants learned about cutting-edge solutions that can benefit public health, including:

  • Tools designed to identify underserved populations and improve health equity;
  • Tools that help track, analyze, simulate, and predict infectious disease outcomes;
  • Consulting services to bring sustainable approaches to unique public health needs;
  • Approaches for disease prediction modeling;
  • Federated learning approaches that advance machine learning while preserving privacy; and
  • Ideas to support building a “national weather service” for infectious disease

Topics also focused on how public-private partnerships can save lives during a public health response. Washington State’s Secretary of Health, Umair Shah, MD, MPH, said that, as the location of the first COVID-19 case and the first state to respond, they harnessed an “all-star lineup” of private sector partners — including Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, Seattle Seahawks, Costco, Google, Kaiser Permanente, and others.

Shah shared that Starbucks partnered with their agency to speed up COVID-19 vaccination clinics, paraphrasing the offer: “If we can get lattes in the hands of people 30 to 35 percent more efficiently, we guarantee you that we can get your mass vaccination site to get vaccines in the arms of Washingtonians 30 to 35 percent more efficiently.” He talked about how Amazon, CareEvolution, and the Health Department partnered on logistics to get next-day delivery on COVID-19 tests for Washington’s citizens. And how Amazon said to them, “Look, your call tree doesn’t seem to make sense. We’re going to go ahead and help you with that.”

“We’ve got to work together,” Shah said, “because that’s what Americans and the American public expect from our leaders across this nation.”

Building the future together

Following the two-day event, the expectation is to continue engaging with industry regularly.

“Overall, the event was incredibly successful,” said Agnes Warner, MPA, MS, CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative Partnerships Lead. “We look forward to many more engagements in the future.”

Andrea Palm, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, summed up Industry Day’s spirit best, saying that collaboration “is the foundation on which we are really going to move our public health system forward.”

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