DHS Security Manager Announces Interagency Predictive Analytics Project

Amid discussions of data governance at an IBM Think Gov panel yesterday, Department of Homeland Security Data Manager Col. John Scott explained an interagency predictive analytics program in development between the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veteran Affairs (VA).

The program, which Scott said is called the Interagency Collaborative for the Advancement of Predictive Analytics (ICAPA), aims to combine and aggregate data from DoD and the VA to preemptively pinpoint and intervene with service members at risk for suicidal thoughts or poor mental health conditions.

Scott, who used to for be a health informatics policy advisor in DoD, said that the project took off after the Trump administration issued an executive order to identify service members at risk of mental health complications.

Service members, Scott added, are most mentally vulnerable upon separation from the armed services, largely because of the difficulties that come with transitioning. That period of transition then makes it critical for DoD and the VA to collaborate.

To address the executive order, Scott said DoD is working on expanding its data to combine it with existing VA data on veteran outcomes to create predictive tools so DoD can find individuals at risk preemptively and intervene with service members as needed.

Part of ICAPA’s project comes with gathering data beyond both Federal departments, Scott added.

“We’re going to try to get social media data, other data from public sources, and combine them,” Scott said. “We’re going to learn from work other people have done along the same lines, and we’re going to build on a decade of sharing data between DoD and VA to try to be able to map it to accommodate a model.”

Underlying Scott’s announcement was the wider concern of the panel–the question of data governance and how to use data in appropriate and responsible ways. Scott cited the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as a roadmap for ethically guiding governmental offices through projects like ICAPA, and as agencies collect data, he added, it’s key to ensure the proper governance and policies are in place to protect people’s data.

“It begins with collection, and it begins with policy that makes sure that the patients you’re taking care of know that the information you’re collecting is going to be part of their health record,” Scott said. “A critical challenge is separating what data is being collected for research and what data is being collected for the provision of healthcare.”

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