Building Resilience in Times of Crisis: Highlights from One Year of USDR’s Health Program

USDR emerged from a surge of our partners’ health-related needs in March 2020. In September 2020, USDR recognized that we had an opportunity to make our individual engagements reusable in order to help communities with their COVID-19 response at scale. Health officials and community leaders needed accurate and timely resources to make life saving decisions. Communications needed to be clear and accessible for everyone in our communities. So, we got to work. USDR spun up our Health Program with dedicated staffing and volunteers, and over the course of the past year, we’ve been able to partner with governments and NGOs across the country to quickly offer resources like website templates, communications strategies, data automation, and more.

As part of our commitment to working in the open, we’d like to share some program highlights as well as acknowledge the volunteers that helped contribute to these outcomes.

Meet the Team

USDR’s health program began near the end of the second COVID-19 surge in the United States (Sept. 2020), before vaccines had been approved, and participated in the rollout for the full vaccination of roughly 163M Americans (Aug 2021).

The program brought together sustained staff, including Raph Lee, Alex Allain, Mike Flowers, Diana Wang, Rob Brackett, Elham Ali, & Jan Overgoor as our Program Leads, Advisor, and Technologists in Residence, along with numerous volunteers who selflessly deployed on individual projects. In addition, many volunteers stepped up to coordinate across multiple partners & support program operations, and a collection of generous supporters enabled us to offer this support countrywide.

🎉🎉🎉 To date, the Health Program deployed >75 volunteers across all projects!

🙏🙏🙏 A message to our volunteers: Each and every one of you helped make these impacts possible. THANK YOU!!

“USDR’s unique combination of technical know-how, broad access to engineering talent, and deep connections across government and industry made a the real difference in our ability to help Americans get vaccinated during the pandemic.” — Jesse Vincent, COO, VaccinateCA

Digital Solutions During a Pandemic

Members of the Health Program responded to requests from partners at all levels of government, along with community based organizations and coalitions working to increase equitable access to care and vaccines. In each case, USDR sought to serve the immediate need, to work shoulder to shoulder with others serving the public, and, where possible, create reusable learnings and tools to benefit others in the ecosystem. Here are a few results of that work, which is still ongoing:

  • Built a vaccine finder used by New Jersey to help people find vaccination information.
  • Built ProtectNursingHomes.org in partnership with the Tobin Center to identify cross-links between Nursing Homes that might indicate increased risk of outbreaks in nursing homes connected to other nursing homes with potential outbreaks.
  • At least 20 local and national public health organizations have said that they are using the tool to understand their risks and communicate outbreaks, and the tool has had almost 3000 unique site visitors so far.
  • Built a universal appointment API system used by 3 separate partners collecting appointment info for ~50,000 locations. Serving as an important collaborative test case for Department of Health and Human Services developing data standards.
  • Supported the national appointment finding ecosystem by participating in standardization discussions, aggregating appointment finder resources, and supporting partners in building public APIs. Read more.
  • Supported 6 jurisdictions across the country, serving a total population of 16.7M, to improve their website or social media communication.
  • Supported California in its innovative work enabling Californians to get access to their vaccination records.

🗺️ 🇺🇸 Together, we did work benefiting residents in at least 20 states!

Resources Designed with Communities in Mind

Over the last year, we’ve also published a series of resources for the broader healthcare and government communities. We invite you to use them, tell us what else would be helpful, and reach out to USDR if you have ideas for more ways to support this work in the future.

Vaccine Appointment Finders

Website Usability, Communication, and Equity

Team members presented the following artifacts in various speaking engagements such as with the American Public Health Association during National Public Health Week and at the DotGov Conference.

Health Equity Toolkit

Data Analytics and Decision Making

Open Source Repositories

Continued Efforts

Thank you to all of our partners, supporters, and volunteers to date. If you are a government partner looking for support with vaccine access for those in your community or equitable health-related communications, let us know how we can help. Similarly, if you are a technologist or public servant looking for ways to volunteer your skills on high-impact, high-urgency projects, join our USDR volunteer community here.

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U.S. Digital Response

U.S. Digital Response

Connecting governments and nonprofits with pro bono technologists and assistance to quickly respond to the critical needs of the public.