Healthcare worker drawing a medication into a syringe

MITRE Wins CIO 100 Award for Healthcare Coalition Infrastructure

By Kay M. Upham

MITRE’s award winning infrastructure powers the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. In under 30 days, we built a secure, cloud-based, scalable "virtual company" with 11 key partners—who donated technology and expertise—to enable the coalition's work.

Editor's note: This groundbreaking work has been honored with a 2021 CIO 100 Award, which recognizes business technology innovation. 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic required a national coordination of response efforts by public, private, and not-for-profit entities. Establishing the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition was a crucial first step.

An essential second step: building the technical infrastructure capable of supporting widespread collaboration and data sharing among the 1,100+ coalition members.

"In my experience, it was an unprecedented effort in terms of speed, scale, and the need to work across many technology partners," says MITRE's Michal Cenkl, "and it’s one we're ideally suited to address."

As the operator of several federal R&D centers working in the public interest, MITRE served as a trusted, unbiased technical leader to bring together partners from across the nation to help fight COVID-19 and save lives.

We quickly convened a group of technology partners—many of them commercial competitors—who donated necessary technology and resources. The group included Acumen, Amazon Web Services, Box, Deloitte, Google, Microsoft, Okta, Salesforce, Slack, Splunk, and Tableau.

The resulting cloud-native platform includes a public website with hundreds of curated resources, a comprehensive member database, 2,200+ users, and 200+ data sets that are securely shared for research.

The platform creates a way for myriad, often competing, organizations to work together, sharing data and ideas they might otherwise have hesitated to—all for a common cause.

A New Kind of Platform for a New Kind of Enemy

"You don't make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline."

Dr. Anthony Fauci's quote succinctly addresses one of the most significant challenges surrounding MITRE's efforts to build this technical infrastructure.

"The operational cadence was being determined by this deadly virus—not by us," Cenkl says. "There were no lessons learned or precursor platform to draw from. It was all new."

IT architectures usually require months of planning. Typical projects involve defining requirements, identifying resources, and building and testing the technology components. In this case, speed was essential. The coalition began evolving in real time and incredibly fast.

We launched the infrastructure on March 30, 2020, and tools such as the COVID-19 Decision Support Dashboard had an immediate impact. The dashboard combines numerous streams of data—from case counts to testing resources and economic factors—and provides reliable real-time information to support critical decision making.

A Foundation for Other Health-Related IT Innovations

A direct result of our work for the coalition is the Collaboration-as-a-Platform (CaaP) framework we developed.

MITRE's Brian Downey explains. "CaaP supports the rapid development of collaborative environments. We now have the technology platform and repeatable processes to establish these trusted and secure environments for solving problems through partnerships and coalitions.

"We've already successfully used this model in several other initiatives," he adds. "In early April, MITRE reused the platform to launch the national The Fight Is in Us website in only seven days." The website enlists COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma to help others in their fight to recover from the virus.

We’ve also used the collaborative platform model to support COVID-19 contact tracing initiatives such as Sara Alert™. It's also being used in the recent Vaccination Credential Initiative.

A Technical Achievement Boosts COVID-19 Impact

When we began this effort, our goal was to create a technical platform infrastructure that promoted widespread collaboration, technical innovation, and shared data analytics.

The result reimagines how MITRE engages with partners. It provides the CaaP framework for future collaborations using shared analytics. It also demonstrates the value of using integrated technologies and public-private partnerships.

"We know our work has made an impact on the COVID-19 fight," Cenkl says. "We'll continue to support the coalition as long as the virus remains a threat to our health and safety."