HHS announces new Synthetic Health Data Challenge

Jan. 20, 2021

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced the launch of the Synthetic Health Data Challenge (Challenge).

Synthetic health data is realistic (but not real) health record data that contains a complete medical history from birth to death. This data can be used without cost or restriction and is intended to support the specific interests of researchers and developers for testing the effectiveness of tools, algorithms, and disease modeling approaches. The Challenge, part of ONC's Synthetic Health Data Generation to Accelerate Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) project, invites participants to create and test innovative and novel solutions that will further cultivate the capabilities of Synthea, an open-source synthetic patient generator that models the medical histories of synthetic patients.

The Synthetic Health Data Challenge encourages researchers and developers to validate the realism of synthetic health records generated by Synthea, develop or improve the disease-progression and treatment modules used to create synthetic records, and spur novel uses of synthetic health data.

"Synthetic data like those created by Synthea can augment the infrastructure for patient-centered outcomes research by providing a source of low risk, readily available, synthetic data that can complement the use of real clinical data," said Teresa Zayas-Cabán, ONC chief scientist. "By enhancing Synthea with new clinical data modules or demonstrating novel uses of Synthea-generated synthetic data, Challenge participants will support PCOR research and development efforts by enhancing PCOR researchers' ability to conduct rigorous analyses and generate relevant findings."

Participants can submit their Challenge Phase I proposals in one of two categories: Enhancements to Synthea or Novel Uses of Synthea Generated Synthetic Data. The best proposals will move on to Challenge Phase II—Prototype or Solutions Development. Phase II features awards totaling up to $100,000: up to two first-place winning solutions will receive $25,000 each; up to two second-place solutions will receive $15,000 each, and up to two third-place solutions will receive $10,000 each.

The Challenge is one in a portfolio of projects ONC is leading to enable PCOR through technology; projects are funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund and managed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

To follow or register for the Synthetic Health Data Challenge or to register for the Phase I Informational Webinar, visit www.challenge.gov/challenge/synthetic-health-data-challenge.

For more information about the Synthetic Health Data Generation to Accelerate PCOR project, visit www.healthit.gov/topic/research-evaluation/synthetic-health-data-generation-accelerate-patient-centered-outcomes.

HHS has the release.