The Department of Health and Human Services has announced the winners of its first-ever Opioid Code-a-Thon to help harness data into solutions to combat the nation’s epidemic of drug overdoses.

The code-a-thon took place on December 6 and 7 at HHS headquarters in Washington, where more than 300 coders and 50 teams competed for more than 24 hours, with nine teams selected for the final judging round. The teams used data—some of it released for the first time—to analyze trends and patterns in order to propose data-driven solutions.

Before the event, de-identified data from HHS, federal, state and local government, as well as private industry, was made available to challenge the teams via a portal. In addition, on the day of the event, the agency released restricted data sets from HHS, states and the private sector.

In the end, three winners were each awarded $10,000 prizes for three challenge tracks.

  • Prevention Track—The Visionist team developed a program called Take Back America, to assess the unmet need in five states for takeback programs at pharmacies where unused or unneeded opioids can be returned, therefore taking a source of opioids out of circulation.
  • Treatment Track—The Origami Innovations team from Yale University created a model designed for real-time tracking of overdoses, enabling first responders and health authorities to be prepared for tracking events, such as an outbreak of fentanyl overdoses in communities. This real-time tracking would enable area hospitals and local health departments to allocate resources where they are most needed.
  • Usage Track—The Opioid Prescriber Awareness Tool team developed a program to provide physicians with a visual representation of their opioid prescribing patterns compared with their peers. The tool also allows physicians to visualize the prescribing patterns of other physicians in their area that they might refer their patients to.

Also See: Startup-led team wins FDA opioid overdose app contest

“HHS’ code-a-thon was a major step forward in the efforts to use data to address the opioid crisis,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan in a statement. “The innovative ideas developed today could turn into tomorrow’s solutions as we work to combat the scourge of opioid addiction sweeping the nation.”

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