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TeleTracking Technologies Inc.'s selection to gather real-time hospital information from across the country isn't just born of the Covid-19 pandemic, but rather it's a moment three decades in the making.

The Pittsburgh-based company in April received a $10 million contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on Covid-19 and hospital and health system capacity from the nation's hospital and health systems. The data collection includes information on beds, ICU capacity, ventilators and the types of treatment that is being used, as well as several other data points.

TeleTracking's efforts are very much in its wheelhouse. The company's dashboard and data analytics provide hospitals and health systems an up-to-the-minute look at bed and patient flow and works to ensure no one has to wait for health care.

"This has been a continually evolving platform that really started on the basis of what we've been building for 30 years," said Chris Johnson, the veteran health care technologist who is president of TeleTracking. "We had a head start. We weren't starting from zero."

Johnson spoke in an exclusive interview with the Pittsburgh Business Times. He said there's been a lot of misinformation that has sprung up around the awarding of the contract, and it doesn't reflect what actually happened or the depth of TeleTracking's experience. TeleTracking has been at the forefront of hospital and health system technology for years as it has built and refined its dashboard analytic systems.

And it obscures the fact, Johnson said, that it's part of a public-private partnership that is battling what has become the health care and economic challenge of a lifetime.

"I think what is missing from the dialogue is the power of these people coming together working earnestly and the power of a public-private partnership bringing the best of what we have in private industry in conjunction with what we have at the federal, regional, state and local level," he said.

It was TeleTracking's capability with hospital data that first drew the attention of the federal government, first in meetings with lawmakers and then, in September 2016, a top company executive testifying before the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee about technology and innovation in health care. And it continued last year, when, before the Covid-19 pandemic, TeleTracking was invited among other companies to submit a white paper about disaster preparedness and readiness for regional disasters like hurricanes.

When the pandemic hit, the white paper that TeleTracking wrote gained more traction, eventually leading to federal officials reaching out to the company to see what it could do for what was becoming an urgent need to understand what was happening with Covid-19 at the local level.

"At the time, this thing was growing rapidly," Johnson recalled. "The economy was getting shut down, and there was a need for data."

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