Marlena Sarunac

Particle Health Sandbox places in ONC Data Challenge

September 28, 2021

The Synthetic Health Data Challenge launched on January 19, 2021, invited proposals for enhancing Synthea or demonstrating novel uses of Synthea-generated synthetic data.

When the ONC launched a challenge focused on enhancing the ability for synthetic health data generator, Synthea, to produce high-quality data for opioid, pediatric, and complex care use cases... you know we couldn't resist sinking our teeth into the challenge.

After several months, the proposals have been reviewed and the winners, selected: Particle Health is proud to be recognized amongst cutting-edge solutions, with our Sandbox Environment winning third place

Our work on early iterations of Particle’s sandbox data positioned us well to enter the competition. Our fearless competitor was Parker Bannister, our in-house Data Scientist, and he was ready. to. compete ⚡️


“This national competition was a great opportunity open to companies and individuals to build upon tools that can improve our understanding of healthcare and enable our healthcare system with insights that can lead to better health outcomes for individuals. This was also an excellent opportunity to put my knowledge and Particle’s sandbox to the test to see how it stands amongst others in the industry.” -- Parker Bannister 

Synthetic healthcare data, and specifically formats such as CCDA and FHIR are worked on by a relatively small community. This community shares a common, passionate goal to improve healthcare, with scientists and engineers pitching in and contributing to online knowledge databases that help each other tackle similar challenges. 

Particle’s Pitch:

With the ONC’s release of the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule and TEFCA, the healthcare industry will transition to APIs and federal network infrastructures as a necessary means for healthcare data exchange. The Particle Health Sandbox is currently the only realistic testing environment containing point-in-time CCDA files, matching FHIR, and in-document chart notes that can be accessed via API. Leveraging Synthea’s synthetic data, we were able to closely model patient data from federal health networks that TEFCA outlines. Our solution bolsters Synthea’s data by adding the most common point-in-time documents found in federal networks, such as Encounters, Medication Refills, Immunizations and Lab Summaries, as well as in-document provider notes. This allows developers to build and test without risk of HIPAA violations, and seamlessly transition to pulling real patient information without changing any underlying infrastructure or processes used in development.   


We learned a lot during this process: 


  • Synthea is a powerful tool for generating synthetic CCDA and equivalent FHIR data
  • There are many potential opportunities to develop on top of Synthea to improve upon it and the use cases it can deliver
  • Real Clinical Information is highly variable and comes in different shapes and sizes
  • Quality development environments are important for enabling innovation
  • Policy greatly impacts the future direction of health information technology



The biggest surprise for Parker? 

“Our solution was really different. Many of the other proposed solutions were oriented around research and analysis. They implemented novel algorithms to gain insight on synthetic data to gain better understanding of healthcare generally, and health, specifically. I thought this was a really interesting use case for synthetic data, and these algorithms could be applied to our sandbox API, or in the future, our production API, to support an expansion beyond treatment use cases.

Placing third in the competition comes with a $10,000 award from the ONC. Particle Health will be using those monies to invest in a spring Engineering Internship program. Please stay tuned for a formal announcement! 



Learn More:


The Synthea solution is publically available on our GitHub Repository. You can also visit our website to use our sandbox environment, pre-loaded with Synthea data modified with our solution. 


We look forward to future competitions, collaborations and challenges, and thank the ONC for the opportunity!