Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Suzanne Sellman Public Affairs Officer, HHS-ASPRasprmedia@hhs.govwww.hhs.gov/news
To aid state, territorial and local health departments in community-level pandemic response efforts such as implementing COVID-19 vaccination plans that meet the needs of Americans ages 65 and older, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today unveiled a suite of online tools built from existing programs and information technology platforms.
On Tuesday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar encouraged states and U.S. territories to begin vaccinating people over age 65, whether or not they live in long-term care facilities. This is in addition to vaccinating healthcare workers and other first tier priority groups to help reduce infection rates and hospitalizations.
The new suite of tools can be used to target health education campaigns and inform public health authorities’ decisions about locations, staffing and transportation to meet the needs of at-risk citizens in community vaccination campaigns and in working with healthcare facilities to make outpatient therapeutics available. Such efforts can help mitigate the strain on healthcare systems nationwide.
To create the suite of tools, HHS used the HHS emPOWER Program which provides de-identified data from Medicare beneficiaries who are at high risk during disasters and other public health emergencies, and an evidence-based, peer-reviewed computer model developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The model assessed all 62 million Medicare beneficiaries’ individual risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 within any setting, including those living at home, in long-term care facilities, receiving outpatient care or who are hospitalized. The comprehensive model builds in critical factors such as demographics, socioeconomics and health conditions, as well as healthcare service access of Medicare beneficiaries.
“Senior citizens are among the highest at-risk for COVID-19 severe illness and death,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Combined with previous CMS actions in making Medicare COVID-19 data available, states and communities will have to access to the information they need in order to encourage seniors to receive an initial COVID-19 vaccine dose and a second dose as recommend by clinicians. With these tools, states can tailor their COVID-19 vaccination efforts and more easily target their activities based on the risk and demographics of their communities.”
The emPOWER Program translated this information into a suite of tools with de-identified data. Public health authorities can access the restricted dashboard in HHS Protect to see heat maps, tables and bar charts based on de-identified data. The dashboard indicates population risks for COVID-19 hospitalization and death, healthcare service dependence data, and in the future will include the number of beneficiaries who have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Public health authorities can view the information at state, county, and ZIP code levels.
The suite of tools includes geographic information system (GIS) Representational State Transfer (REST) Services. These data layers, part of a system called ASPR GeoHEALTH, can be connected to state and local public health GIS applications to help inform real-time COVID-19 planning, mitigation and response activities.
“We are excited to be working with CMS to support our partners in state, local and territorial health departments in responding to the most severe pandemic the world has seen in a century,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “Our HHS emPOWER Program will continue to improve these tools to provide state, territorial and local public health departments with meaningful, consumable, and actionable information to help save lives.”
Only federal, state, territorial, and local public health authorities can access the emPOWER COVID-19 at-risk emergency planning data, dashboards, and REST Service data layers. State and territorial health officials, on a limited basis, can request more detailed information to support HHS-approved targeted COVID-19 response outreach public health activities.
HHS emPOWER Program, created as a partnership between HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and CMS, expedited the development and launch of BETA versions of this suite of HHS emPOWER tools.
Next week, HHS will begin providing free informational resources and training on the suite of tools for state, territory and local public health authorities. In early February, HHS will begin integrating Medicare beneficiary vaccine uptake data across the tools to help the partner’s ability to monitor beneficiary healthcare access to vaccinations, particularly for those at higher risk.
HHS emPOWER Program, a partnership between ASPR and CMS, provides dynamic data, geographic information system and artificial intelligence tools, and training, informational resources and technical assistance to help federal-to-community partners protect the health of at-risk Medicare beneficiaries who live independently, including 4.2 million who rely on essential health care services or electricity-dependent durable medical and assistive equipment and devices.
HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health and social services. The mission of ASPR is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. To learn more about federal support for the all-of-America COVID-19 response, visit coronavirus.gov.
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