Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An introduction to WayBlazer, powered by IBM Watson

Here’s what the WayBlazer account supervisor at Edelman public relations in Austin, Texas, had to say today by way of introducing the new WayBlazer cognitive computing program, powered by IBM Watson:

"WayBlazer uses leading edge IBM Watson technology to redefine the way consumers dream, plan, personalize and purchase travel.

"The company is led by Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and founding chairman of Kayak.com, who serves as chairman; Manoj Saxena, former General Manager of the IBM Watson Group, is co-founder and early investor.

"WayBlazer utilizes the cognitive power of IBM Watson, which takes massive amounts of information and organizes it, infuses it with intelligence, personalizes it and learns more with each use. The WayBlazer Insight Engine uses a standards-based cognitive cloud from Cognitive Scale, which is powered by IBM Watson technology.  

"WayBlazer addresses the growing issue of the sheer breadth of options and data required of travelers planning their next destination. On average, users explore 20 or more websites to research flight, hotel, and activity information, while weighing personal preferences and insights from social networks, online review sites and more. WayBlazer will form the industry’s most robust travel concierge by letting its customers ask questions using a natural language interface. WayBlazer links places, offers, and preferences, with social, cultural and economic data to recommend targeted travel insights and commerce offers that are tailored and customized for each consumer’s experience."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CDPH head will make Ebola “a number one priority,” but California will not institute border checks for Ebola

In response to an inquiry sent on Friday, October 10th, from Etopia News asking if California would institute border checks against the entry of Ebola into the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) replied today as follows:

Will California initiate border checkpoints to prevent entry of persons at risk for Ebola?

RESPONSE: The responsibility for monitoring persons entering the United States belongs to federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). 

When asked:

What are the higher levels of activation at MHCC (Medical and Health Coordination Center) beyond level 1 and what events will trigger the transition to these higher levels of activation?

CDPH replied:

RESPONSE: The Medical and Health Coordination Center (MHCC) is located within the CDPH Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office. The MHCC becomes activated for the purpose of supporting and coordinating CDPH, the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) and Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) emergency response activities. These activities include responding to mission requests from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), when local Public Health or Medical  government organizations request state assistance.  The MHCC is staffed according to anticipated need and workload.  Currently, the MHCC is staffed at level 1, which is identified as minimal staffing level. The number of hours worked or number of persons assigned to MHCC duties can change at any time, depending on need.

Further, when asked “How much time on the job is (CDPH director) Ron Chapman spending working on Ebola preparedness-related issues?”

CDPH replied:

RESPONSE: When a response such as Ebola takes place, it becomes a number one priority for Dr. Chapman.

Here’s what it said about the number of people assigned to the Medical & Health Coordination Center (MHCC), recently activated to lead the state’s efforts against Ebola:

How many employees work at the MHCC?

RESPONSE: As with all emergency operations centers, the MHCC is staffed according to need. The MHCC staffing is expanded or contracted to meet the support and coordination needs of CDPH, EMSA and DHCS. When not activated, there are usually 1 or sometimes 2 persons in the MHCC assigned to various maintenance duties.

John Wogec will serve as MHCC Director:
            What’s the name of the person in charge of managing it?

RESPONSE: The MHCC Director is the designated person in charge of managing its activities. The staff person currently assigned as MHCC Director is John Wogec, an EPO Senior Emergency Services Coordinator. Persons assigned to this position are CDPH or EMSA staff or supervisors with many years of experience in emergency management. The MHCC does not develop department or state policy, but ensures operational support and coordination of CDPH, EMSA and DHCS programs involved in the response. 

Here’s what CDPH had to say about funding for the MHCC:

            What is its annual budget and has its budget risen or fallen in the last three years?

RESPONSE: Federal grant funds for public health and emergency preparedness planning has declined over the past few years. Funding for the MHCC is one of many funding areas covered with emergency preparedness federal grant funds for emergency preparedness planning. 

Here’s what CDPH had to say about the state’s overall preparedness for an Ebola outbreak:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest degree of preparedness against Ebola, how would Ron Chapman rate the CDPH, the government of the State of California, and the people of California?

RESPONSE: While the risk is low, state and local public health officials in California are monitoring the situation closely and taking steps to keep Californians safe. It is important Californians understand that while we should be aware of the disease and its symptoms, it is extremely unlikely that Ebola poses a major public health risk to the people in California. Our advanced health care system has appropriate protocols in place to prevent the spread of this and other deadly diseases. Early detection of imported cases is critical to respond to emerging infectious disease threats such as Ebola Virus Disease. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) works with local health departments, hospitals and other community partners to prepare for outbreaks and other public health emergencies.  Such collaboration ensures we identify novel diseases early on, conduct specialized laboratory testing of suspect cases, and limit potential spread of diseases. 

Additionally, CDPH has activated the MHCC to monitor Ebola virus preparedness efforts and to provide updates and revised recommendations to clinical stakeholders, internal and external partners, and local health departments.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

More about the "Medical and Health Coordination Center"

The Medical and Health Coordination Center, formerly known as the JEOC (Joint Emergency Operations Center) is the co-located Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for CDPH, DHCS, and EMSA. The role of the MHCC includes the following core functions: coordination; communications; resource allocation and tracking; and information collection, analysis, and dissemination; tracking; and information collection, analysis, and dissemination.

The Acronym Glossary also has this to say about the California Department of Public Health:


California Department of Public Health:
A state agency dedicated to optimizing the health and well-being of the people in California and provides assistance with state public health related emergency management activities
(Source:  California Disaster Health Operational Manual October 2009)

California Department of Public Health has activated its “Medical and Health Coordination Center”

Etopia News asked the California Department of Public Health three more questions.  Here's what it said:

1. What is California doing to heighten surveillance of people entering the state in terms of fighting Ebola? 

Response:  CDPH continues to work with our partners in local public health, emergency management and the health care network to ensure the appropriate protocols are in place to address any suspect Ebola case. While risk is low in California, we have also activated our Medical and Health Coordination Center (MHCC) to support preparedness and readiness of the public health infrastructure. California’s public health and health care systems are prepared to treat this disease, and avoid its spread.

2. Which agency would be doing this and are they? 

Response: CDPH works with federal, state and local partners to ensure appropriate protocols are in place.

 3. Will California get a task force like the one Texas Governor Rick Perry has just set up in his state, the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response?
Response: CDPH has activated its Medical and Health Coordination Center to support preparedness of the public health infrastructure. This is a model used in California over the last several years to address disease outbreaks and coordinate response.
The California Hospital Association, on October 9,2014, alerted its members to this activation in a posting here.