Looking for Answers: From the Opioid Crisis . . . to a Network of Networks . . . to a New Curriculum

Open data, information-sharing, data standards and interoperability may not be the answers to every question, but there’s no doubt that they are pivotal components in addressing many challenges confronting the health and human services field. And the latest – and most urgent example to buttress this point is the exploding opioid/heroin epidemic sweeping the country.

Officials at every level of government, nonprofit organizations and communities of all socio/demographic makeup across the nation are grappling with how to address this alarming phenomenon. It stands to reason that by now we should be able to share critical data and learn from each other in order to Identify root cause issues, raise awareness and formulate and implement data informed solutions. But unfortunately – it still ain’t so!

That’s why Stewards of Change Institute, which has been advancing interoperability initiatives for over a decade, has begun focusing on the opioid crisis.  There are few issues today as dangerous and pervasive as this issue.  It is affecting virtually every community in the nation, and no one knows where on the growth curve we are: beginning, middle, or nearing the end.  We do know that the immediate consequences and long term impact will be significant and enduring.  From my perspective, this issue is a clear example of the importance of another key aspect of our systems-change efforts: the social determinants of health and wellness. It’s hard to see how we can find effective and lasting solutions unless we focus on the upstream factors including economic, social, behavioral, and others that impact all our lives.

All of these topics (interoperability, social determinants, opioids, etc.) were among the diverse issues that Stewards of Change Institute addressed during our third annual HHS Open DataFest in California a few weeks ago – and we plan to continue and expand those conversations at our 11th Annual National Symposium in Baltimore in June. Here’s a bit more information about each event:

  • About 200 government, industry, academia, nonprofit leaders representing a broad cross-section of professions, participated in the third annual HHS Open DataFest III in Sacramento, California. The event was cohosted by the California Health and Human Services Agency with support from the California Health Care Foundation, IBM, the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, the Blue Shield of California Foundation and the Stanford University Center for Population Health Sciences. Session videos, the agenda and other information about this event are on the Stewards of Change’s Website and YouTube Channel. The statewide symposium was the culmination of a series of regional DataFest events that took place around the state, including a particularly exhilarating discussion at Stanford (which we continued in Sacramento) focusing on the intersection of academic research and open data. We think this new conversation – and its outgrowths – will yield important, tangible benefits by providing more and better information with which researchers can do their work, which in turn will improve the ability of communities to address their issues more rapidly and effectively.
  • Our 11th Annual National Symposium will take place June 13-14, 2016, once again in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine. Our theme this year will be “Interoperability in Action: What’s Working Now – and How We can Shape the Future.” The event’s sponsors include IBM, Deloitte, CGI, Microsoft, MarkLogic and the Public Consulting Group. More information, as well as session videos from our previous national symposia can be found on our Youtube Channel and website.

We’re particularly looking forward to this two-day event because, in addition to the important conversations, information and connections it always produces, this year’s symposium will include some exciting innovations . . . which I’ll tell you more about in subsequent blogs. For now, I’ll just say that one of our primary objectives is to begin forging a national “Network of Networks Community of Interest.” The intent is to link community, state, national, academic, industry and philanthropic leaders who represent key program/agency sectors and who are deeply committed to interoperability. We view this as a strategic way to maintain momentum on the issues irrespective of who occupies the White House and Congress – this year or in the future. Our federal partners, including CMS, ACF and ISE are equally enthusiastic and are expected to contribute and actively participate again this year.

Last, but absolutely not least, I’m delighted to announce that within a few weeks Stewards of Change Institute will introduce our new InterOptimability Training Curriculum and Certification (ITCC) Program. ITCC brings together the knowledge we’ve acquired from a decade of work, including the convening of over 1,500 thought-leaders and is designed to be a game-changer. This education and training program will enable individuals and organizations to acquire the knowledge, skills, tools and competencies needed to address the challenges of working in the turbulent and challenging HHS field in the 21st Century. We hope that after you see the videos, you’ll agree that InterOptimability (think Interoperability + Optimization) just may be the key to making real progress.