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Health / Municipal government

TECHealth is how city government and technologists should work together

The Baltimore City Health Department backed seven tech projects to help the city. Take note, city agencies.

Baltimore City Hall. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

With a food computer glowing toward the front of the room at the University of Maryland BioPark, a mix of officials and technologists described the projects in the Baltimore health department’s TECHealth program on Thursday night.
They involve work on some of the city’s toughest challenges, like heroin overdoses. In Code in the Schools’ Bad Batch Alert, students are helping to build a warning system for heroin that is laced with fentanyl.

The technology itself is also pretty involved. Chris Meenan of the University of Maryland’s I3 Center for Healthcare Innovation is working on a database that can help review suspicious deaths of children. Delali Dzirasa and Fearless are working on a dashboard to analyze health department data.
But in remarks, Meenan and Dzirasa pointed out that the collaboration started with something as basic as an email.
We’ve heard plenty about issues with getting city government to answer, but in this case they got responses — quick ones. They separately reached out to Baltimore Health Department CIO Mike Fried at various hours of the night, and promptly received an email back.
“We were pretty sold at that point,” Dzirasa said.
It took a lot more than establishing initial contact to get the program off the ground last year. The technologists had to assemble teams. The seven projects were each housed within incubators and companies around the city, and the teams worked with staffers from the city as well as mentors from the technology community. Getting funding required syncing up with Baltimore Budget Director Andrew Kleine, who was already interested in bring a version of to Baltimore. The teams built out proof-of-concepts and presented them to leaders. The projects could also be in line for more funding.

“With all of your help, we’re going to make Baltimore the R&D lab for public health,” City Health Commissioner Leana Wen said Thursday.
Sometimes it just takes that first connection to get a little closer to reality.


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