COVID-19 TOPx Tech Sprint Begins with Design-a-thon Teams — Join us!

Posted by Kevin Duvall on January 19, 2021
By: Kristen Honey, Chief Data Scientist and Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Alex Wilson, IT Specialist, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), HHS; and Sara Brenner, Diagnostic Data Lead, Data Strategy and Execution Workgroup, HHS; Chief Medical Officer for In Vitro Diagnostics, Associate Director for Medical Affairs, CDRH, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of open data as a strategic asset. Within HHS, the Office of the Chief Data Officer is leading enterprise-wide efforts to responsibly unlock and share datasets with the world. To date, over 200 datasets related to COVID-19 are available for public use.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, open data can mean the difference between life and death. When open data is put to use, lives can be saved.
Open data is necessary — but not sufficient — for our U.S. data-driven response. Unlocking quality data in a timely manner is a first step in creating real-world value. Once unlocked, then, we must transform raw data into understanding and actionable insights: Data => Knowledge => Action => Impact.
Catalyzing Data-Driven Solutions for Real-World Impact
There are an unlimited number of ways to create value from government data. For example:
• Data visualizations and dashboards like HHS Protect Public
• Open Data Roundtables like the series of HHS roundtables on health data
• Innovation sprints like the COVID-19 At-Anywhere Diagnostics Design-a-thon
• Technology sprints like The Opportunity Project (TOP) with the U.S. Census Bureau
Part of our role in government is to incentivize entrepreneurs, innovators, and problem solvers to use COVID-19 data and adopt federal data standards. In December 2020, HHS did this through our “open innovation” crowdsourcing platform with the COVID-19 Design-a-thon that attracted over 700 problems solvers and yielded over 30 submissions built on open data standards. From these submissions, Design-a-thon judges selected 16 winning teams (phase 1) and winning teams are invited to participate in a second HHS sprint (phase 2) to further develop their digital solutions.
COVID-19 TOPx Technology Sprint
Today, HHS is launching the “COVID-19 TOPx” technology sprint to continue momentum and further develop digital health tools to capture, harmonize, and securely transmit key data elements from at-anywhere COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Our COVID-19 TOPx sprint is building upon years of experience from the “TOP technology sprints”, including the HHS “TOP Health” technology sprint in 2018 and 2019 with Presidential Innovation Fellows. Both TOP and TOPx provide a process for government, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations to collaborate and create value from federal data.
This fast-paced, 6-week COVID-19 TOPx sprint is the first time that HHS is using the recently published “TOPx Toolkit” by the U.S. Census Bureau. The TOPx toolkit includes step-by-step methods, checklists, templates, and best practices for open-data sprints to help agencies:
• Address mission-critical priorities with data and technology innovation
• Recruit cross-sector participants
• Facilitate a virtual technology development sprint on a flexible and modifiable timeline
Visit where you can share ideas, see our COVID-19 TOPx agenda, and sign up to watch virtual livestreams:
  • KICKOFF January 19, 2021
  • TEAMS LAUNCH January 26, 2021
  • ALPHA DEMOS February 9, 2021
  • BETA DEMOS February 23, 2021
  • FINAL DEMOS March 9, 2021
  • DEMO DAY Spring 2021
The original TOP model is a 12- to 14-week technology sprint, yet HHS has shortened our COVID-19 TOPx sprint to a faster-paced 6 weeks given the urgency of this pandemic. America needs these digital solutions now. Therefore, we’re challenging the 16 TOPx teams to deliver results in two months. HHS will showcase these results at the COVID-19 TOPx Demo Day in spring 2021.
Another difference between this COVID-19 TOPx sprint and prior TOP sprints is transparency. HHS will open all of our TOPx demos and milestones (see above) to the public, so everyone with an interest will be able to view our process and progress. You can watch these diagnostic digital solutions being developed in real time. HHS wants everyone to benefit from TOPx ideas exchanged and to see these digital solutions, even before solutions are on the market. Through our virtual collaboration in the open, HHS aims to accelerate the public adoption and use of COVID-19 diagnostic data tools.
COVID Response is a Team Sport!
Our COVID-19 TOPx efforts will strengthen public-private connections and span silos as we all work together with data, technology, and agile methods. TOPx methods put users and people first, while facilitating new collaborations across government, industry, academia, nonprofits, and diverse stakeholders. We look forward to seeing how the 16 TOPx teams will use datasets and resources freely available to the public on and — and transform federal data standards for COVID-19 diagnostic reporting into new digital tools.
Sign up to watch the COVID-19 TOPx kickoff on January 19, 2021. Register here. The event is free and all are welcome!
Learn more about the 16 Design-a-thon teams that will be participating in the COVID-19 TOPx Technology Sprint for Diagnostic Digital Tools here.
Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to join our crowdsourcing community, where you can find updates and follow progress. Go here to join: HHS COVID-19 At-Anywhere Diagnostics Design-a-thon and TOPx community.