This article is published in the March 2024 issue.

Visioning Workshop Report Released: Future of Pandemic Prevention and Response

By Haley Griffin, Program Associate, CCC

CCC held a visioning workshop on the Future of Pandemic Response and Prevention in September 2023 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was organized by the CCC Council’s Computational Challenges in Healthcare Task Force, and a Steering Committee of community members in the healthcare domain:

  • David Danks, University of California-San Diego/CCC Council Member
  • Rada Mihalcea, University of Michigan/CCC Council Member
  • Katie Siek, Indiana University/CCC Council Member
  • Mona Singh, Princeton University/CCC Council Member
  • Brian Dixon, Regenstrief Institute
  • Madhav Marathe, University of Virginia
  • Shwetak Patel, University of Washington
  • Erica Shenoy, Harvard MGB
  • Michael Sjoding, Michigan Medical

The organizers assembled a wide range of experts for a 1.5-day event to see what ideas the health, informatics, epidemiology, Healthcare Personnel, and computing communities could collectively generate that may mitigate the harm of a future pandemic. Three major computing research opportunity areas emerged from the workshop discussions: 

(1) Computational models. Models are extremely important across sectors, but especially in the health system during pandemics, from anticipating the supply needs of hospitals, to determining the care capacity of hospital and social service providers, to projecting the spread of the disease. 

(2) Data. Accurate, reliable data is essential to achieve success when applying models. Data and measurement standardization across healthcare organizations would modernize the data infrastructure, and ensure data remains private while it is shared for model development, validation, and application. 

(3) Infrastructure. Increasing the amount of accurate, reliable data, and the resulting improved models, would help elevate healthcare infrastructure. Additionally, in both pandemic times and peace time, identifying the (very large) space of common queries, and then adjusting data structures to facilitate answers to those queries, has great potential for improvement. The public health infrastructure also needs to be updated: data capture, sharing, and bidirectional communication with the healthcare system is needed.

At a broader level, for public health recommendations to have an impact during a pandemic it is essential to build trust with the impacted communities. This requires clear and transparent communication with stakeholders. Research in this area should be prioritized, and this connects to the reliable data theme above since individuals will only supply their data if they trust the organization that they are granting access to their information.

Finally, many healthcare systems lack the data, compute, and communication infrastructures required to build models on their data, use those models in ordinary operations, or even to reliably access their data. It is important to strive for equitable access and provide resources to systems in under-resourced communities.

Read the full workshop report here.