The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) website is a valued resource for disseminating health data to advance research, inform programs and policy, and promote health equity in New York City. The “data” section of the website houses an assortment of important resources including interactive data tools and maps; survey information and datasets; vital statistics birth and death records; neighborhood health information; publications; and more. However, as evident from an in-depth needs assessment conducted in 2015, organizational, design and technical issues create barriers to easy access and use of the data. In addition, the existence of EpiQuery and the Environmental and Health Data Portal – two similar but separate interactive data systems on the DOHMH website– presented a fragmented picture of DOHMH health information and was confusing to users.
The overarching goal of the project was to improve accessibility and usability of DOHMH web-based data. DOHMH selected GCOM to achieve the following goals
Create a web-based tool that enables users to access health data from a variety of DOHMH datasets to run analyses, and obtain tables, charts, graphs, and neighborhood maps.
- Make the tool modular with flexible, responsive, mobile-first design that makes it accessible from all popular browsers and smartphones
- Create the EpiQuery landing page that describes the different data tools and resources and can guide users with varying data analysis skills and needs to the appropriate data resources. This should allow for different levels of usability within the system such as supporting needs of two different user types - Expert & Novice
- Ensure the tool allows users to visually explore available DOHMH data and generate customized Community Health Profiles replacing current static PDF documents
- Reorganize and improve the ‘Data’ section of the website making it more intuitive and informative for all types of users using customer-centric user experience and visual design
- Improve accessibility and usability of DOHMH web-based data while complying with citywide policies and standards
- Build statistical tools and a data visualization platform to communicate scientific data, allowing for expansion of additional data sets in the future. The visualization platform should follow the best practices for communication of scientific data and be capable of creating statistical charts, tables and maps in a single interactive view.
- Provide support for integration with social media and have APIs allowing other applications to consume the data
- Build a metadata repository that enables enhanced search while implementing a Content Management System that allows non-technical staff to author the content
GCOM implemented the project from start to finish in the allocated budget and time frame. GCOM gathered requirements, developed system design, developed all the required modules, tested, secured and delivered the application where 90% of transactions are completed in 3 seconds or less. More than 10 million records for Survey and Surveillance datasets were virtualized from the old SAS application into the new system to improve accessibility and usability of the web- based data. GCOM continues to work with DOHMH to enhance the system and provide essential support.
The current EpiQuery system resides at - https://a816-healthpsi.nyc.gov/EpiQuery
The site was referenced by New York Times in an article on May14, 2020 underlining its ongoing relevance:
“By the second week of March, the city’s public health warning system — known as the syndromic surveillance system — began strongly signaling the spread of a flulike illness, officials said”.
DOHMH has put more effort and emphasis on governing its web-based health data and with sharing these data across the organization and with outside entities. This solution is strategic for DOHMH and the tactical approach is to use the opportunity to revamp EpiQuery as the first use case. EpiQuery receives about 2000 non-bounce visits per month from about 1400 unique users, ¼ of which are internal Health Department users.
The benefits are not easily monetarily quantifiable but dovetail nicely with the City of NY ‘One NYC’ goals through the lens of equity while engaging New Yorkers, Civic and Business Leaders, Elected Officials, and City Agencies.
GCOM has architected a new solution with a new set of tools; implementing a new UI; creating a detailed metadata repository (dictionary); a different statistical data repository (move from SAS to R, Stata, Systat); adding new functionality including: ability to present information about the statistical significance of results and ability to track detailed usage information; dynamically create and share community health content in the form of PDF’s, JPEG, iFrames etc., and share results interactively in social media. The tools contained in the website are mobile-responsive making it even more accessible for its users.
GCOM isn’t your typical government solutions provider. GCOM combines the scale to support large complex projects with the agility and accessibility of a boutique solutions provider giving state and local government leaders a third option when looking for a partner to help modernize operations and optimize digital engagement. And we’ve earned a reputation for innovation and reliability by helping clients leverage cutting edge technology while mitigating risk. Whether it’s helping governments transition to virtual working, incorporating biometric ID to give physicians anywhere anytime access to vital records, providing local law enforcement with complete criminal histories ondemand, or data integration platforms that monitor community health, GCOM’s innovative, next generation government solutions improve operations and deliver more value to the communities they serve.