VA is latest to turn to Palantir as agencies hone real-time coronavirus surveillance systems

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This story has been updated with a comment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Add the Department of Veterans Affairs to the growing list of agencies using Palantir’s data services for coronavirus recovery.

The VA Technology Acquisition Center awarded a nearly $5 million contract to the Silicon Valley company for its Gotham data-sharing software, already used by the HHS Protect system informing White House coronavirus efforts.

The Veterans Health Administration will use the software to track and analyze COVID-19 outbreak areas and make “timely” decisions using data on supply chain capacity, hospital inventory, patient journey and outcomes, employee safety, social services use, and lab diagnostics, according to a department spokesperson.

“Our decision was made independently of HHS,” the spokesperson said. “We are aware of their use of the Palantir software and are exploring opportunities to strengthen collaboration and responsible information sharing. This includes improvement with existing sharing and new opportunities.”

Hospitals are part of the Department of Health and Human Services‘ coronavirus data-gathering efforts, and VHA operates within 1,243 facilities nationally, giving it a broad view of the pandemic.

“VA is transitioning from a manual reporting methodology using lab tests and self-reported data to a real-time bio-surveillance methodology utilizing medical records to create a real-time COVID-19 surveillance tool to track cases, admissions and outcomes,” Kshemendra Paul, chief data officer at VA, told FedScoop in April. “The change in methodology further strengthens the overall timeliness and accuracy of the data, reporting and analytics.”

HHS awarded two contracts totaling $24.9 million to Palantir in April without competition citing the “unusual and compelling urgency” of coronavirus recovery. One of those contracts was for a Palantir Gotham subscription worth $17.4 million and the other for cloud platform implementation to the tune of $7.5 million.

Both helped stand up HHS Protect, which pulls data from federal agencies, all 50 states, health care facilities, and academia with contributions from private industry to inform the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

HHS Protect allows the task force to analyze and model against hundreds of data sources while creating an “immutable” record from the moment of collection to visualization, according to an HHS spokesperson.

“This record creates transparency at a granular level of each individual data asset within Protect,” the spokesperson said. “As the data is updated in the source systems and shared through the Protect ecosystem the models created in Protect are updated immediately.”

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coronavirus, data analytics, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), health care, HHS Protect, Kshemendra Paul, Palantir, Veterans Health Administration, White House Coronavirus Task Force
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