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Data-Driven Solutions - Take Back America Application

Ninety-one people die each day from an opioid overdose in the United States. More than half of those who abuse prescription medication obtained their last dosage from a friend or family member.
Visionist Inc. accepting an award at the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon
Visionist Inc. at the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon

This is a guest blog from Visionist Inc., a winning team from the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon

91 people die each day from an opioid overdose in the United States. More than half of those who abuse prescription medication obtained their last dosage from a friend or family member (1).

Combating opioid abuse starts with effective prevention. Drug take-back centers are a vital part of a comprehensive prevention strategy at the community level, aimed at eliminating addiction by removing the source. These centers offer a safe and effective outlet for disposing of excess prescription opioids so they cannot be misused or abused. But the question remains: are take-back centers located in areas where they are most needed?

In an effort to develop novel and innovative solutions to this, and other related questions, the Department of Health & Human Services hosted a 24-hour Opioid Code-a-Thon on December 6th-7th, 2017. The event drew over 50 teams and more than 300 experts in software, data science, public health, and research. Teams were challenged to rapidly develop innovative solutions to combat the opioid crisis by leveraging data sets compiled and released by HHS. The Visionist team of three data scientists and one software engineer created Take-Back America, the winning entry in the competition's "prevention" track.

Take-Back America provides every visitor instant answers to critical questions such as:

  • Where are take back centers located in my community?
  • How effectively have take-back centers been positioned around my community in response to our risk of opioid abuse?
  • What communities have a significant opioid risk?
  • Where do significant coverage gaps in take-back centers exist?

Visionist's strategy for addressing the challenge was to deploy a team comprised of diverse skill sets to crunch through raw data provided by HHS while augmenting that data with information they obtained from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other public agencies. Leveraging this data, Visionist derived county-level risk statistics for opioid abuse and its correlation to the availability of take-back centers. These efforts converged in the form of a user-centric tool that was rapidly iterated upon to create a functional end-product.

While the competitors only had 24 hours to complete their work, the Visionist team was able to accomplish much in that time. Visionist's Take-Back America is anticipated to have a profound impact on opioid prevention in its current form, and they are working to make it better! Since the hackathon concluded, Visionist has refreshed the data in their model to provide the most up-to-date take-back locations and county risk statistics. Moving forward, they will iteratively add new features for users with the highest priority items including Google Street View functionality for all take-back sites as well as the implementation of a prescriptive model to help public health practitioners and community organizers identify and evaluate potential locations for new take-back centers.

Visionist and HHS look forward to continuing the conversation about how data can affect real change in the battle against opioid addiction and throughout the healthcare community at the 2018 Health Datapalooza on April 26th and 27th at the Washington Hilton in Washington D.C. Please come to the HHS booth in the Exhibit Hall and meet Taylor and Kelsey, members of Visionist's award winning team. If you are unable to attend the conference, Visionist would still welcome the opportunity to speak with you. Get in touch with them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or via email ([email protected]) today!

(1) 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

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Health Data