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Leveraging Informatics and Technology to Support Public Health Response: Framework and Illustrations using COVID-19

Snowdon JL, Kassler W, Karunakaram H, Dixon BE, Rhee K. Leveraging Informatics and Technology to Support Public Health Response: Framework and Illustrations using COVID-19. Online journal of public health informatics. 2021 Mar 21; 13(1):

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Objective: To develop a conceptual model and novel, comprehensive framework that encompass the myriad ways informatics and technology can support public health response to a pandemic. Method: The conceptual model and framework categorize informatics solutions that could be used by stakeholders (e.g., government, academic institutions, healthcare providers and payers, life science companies, employers, citizens) to address public health challenges across the prepare, respond, and recover phases of a pandemic, building on existing models for public health operations and response. Results: Mapping existing solutions, technology assets, and ideas to the framework helped identify public health informatics solution requirements and gaps in responding to COVID-19 in areas such as applied science, epidemiology, communications, and business continuity. Two examples of technologies used in COVID-19 illustrate novel applications of informatics encompassed by the framework. First, we examine a hub from The Weather Channel, which provides COVID-19 data via interactive maps, trend graphs, and details on case data to individuals and businesses. Second, we examine IBM Watson Assistant for Citizens, an AI-powered virtual agent implemented by healthcare providers and payers, government agencies, and employers to provide information about COVID-19 via digital and telephone-based interaction. Discussion: Early results from these novel informatics solutions have been positive, showing high levels of engagement and added value across stakeholders. Conclusion: The framework supports development, application, and evaluation of informatics approaches and technologies in support of public health preparedness, response, and recovery during a pandemic. Effective solutions are critical to success in recovery from COVID-19 and future pandemics.

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