A new digital pilot program will provide opioid overdose surveillance for two counties in California.

The pilot program – named SMART Cumulus – stems from a partnership between the University of California Davis Health, the CDC Foundation, and the Boston Children’s Hospital. The new digital platform enables healthcare and research institutions to more easily exchange data with public health sites.

“Embracing interoperable open [Application Programming Interface] tools ensures the future of health care is anchored in real-time, privacy-focused data exchange, propelling multi-institutional collaborations and sharper decision-making for the greater good,” explained Yauheni Solad, chief medical information officer for digital health and UC Davis Health lead for the SMART Cumulus project.

The SMART Cumulus program uses its access to structured data, as well as information from clinician notes within electronic health records. That data, along with patients’ longitudinal medical histories, is then analyzed using artificial intelligence. Once data is analyzed, public health partners will be able to view dashboards and perform analytics via a Cumulus web application.

“Electronic health records are a rich source of information with a lot of significant, real world data,” said Prabhu RV Shankar, assistant adjunct professor of health informatics and informatics lead for the SMART Cumulus project for UC Davis Health. “With this new program, our researchers and public health officials will have access to data in a timely manner which helps them plan and improve the health of our communities.”

As part of the pilot, the partnering organizations have created an opioid overdose surveillance dashboard for Sacramento County Public Health and the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency that will allow public health officials to track opioid overdoses across the counties. UC Davis Health said access to data on the dashboards will allow public health officials to make decisions about resource allocation to manage and prevent opioid overdoses at the community level.

“The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic,” said Sacramento County Health Officer Olivia Kasirye. “The data and analytics we will be able to collect from the opioid overdose surveillance dashboard will help us to respond and address the health conditions of the communities that need it the most.”

A press release noted that to preserve patient privacy, only aggregate data – such as number of patients, symptoms, signs, diagnoses, medications, hospitalizations, and other associated numbers for case definitions – are shared outside of the health care institutions providing care for the patients.

UC Davis Health stressed that the SMART Cumulus program will speed the delivery of critical information for both medical providers and for public health surveillance and decision-making.

“The current process of extracting and sharing data for research or public health is cumbersome and time consuming,” explained Sid Richardson, project manager for the SMART Cumulus project. “Researchers and public health officials need the data in the moment, not one year later when it will not be as useful.”

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