Boom in Public Health Data. But Where is the Wisdom?
When compared to the HIMSS conference that attracted 38,000 people from the healthcare industry, the Health Datapalooza, an event that was organized in Washington, D.C. this week, was relatively low key – about 2,000 people attended it, including folks from the government (one of its organizers). Here’s Todd Park, CTO of the US government introducing the event to entrepreneurs and others.
But interest in similar events could explode as creative companies create meaningful information out of the increasing number of datasets that the government is making public. In a New York Times op-ed, Tom Friedman contemplated a healthcare Silicon Valley that could become a platform for innovation based on health data.
This week, NPR covered Health Datapalooza that is becoming a showcase event to launch apps based on public health data. The story talked about startups that are doing something interesting with Medicare’s recently released datasets: Lyfechannel creates apps that help senior citizens talk to doctors about medical care and Accordion Healthhelps families estimate health expenses. Even a post-graduate fellowship in health data science was launched at the event.
A Public Tool That Reveals Your Doctor’s Intentions
However, the most interesting data visualization from Medicare’s datasets is from ProPublica, a nonprofit that conducts investigative journalism. The tool is called Treatment Tracker.
Being in the revenue cycle business, I was curious to see how the data compared across individual doctors and groups. For any of the 880,000 physicians who submitted claims to Medicare in 2012, the tool shows information on billing, coding and data about their treatment protocols (where did patients go before and after treatment). Spurred by the incentive program, more than 380,000 eligible professionals (mostly doctors) have submitted EHR information in the last three years. Though there’s no wind of it yet, it’s only a matter of time when de-identified health records become public.
This brings a fundamentally different level of transparency to physician services, their behavior and payments. It will compel large EHR vendors who’ve built business models based on hoarding data to become more open. Everything will be out in the sun.
Four Sample Datasets:
RockHealth reported 10 dataset sources that can be used to build a variety of tools and apps. Here are the most interesting ones.
1. Medicare.gov and CMS.gov cover a vast data pool from provider utilization to payment data, claims data and NPI identification data.
2. Department of Health and Human Services has 1,000 datasets including patient hospital experience by provider or state averages on quality measure, staffing, fine amount, and number of deficiencies.
3. National Cancer Institute’s SEER data tracks cancer data based on race/ethnicity, survival rate, incidents over time.
3. openFDA includes reports on drug adverse events, such as adverse reactions or medication errors submitted.
These are early examples of government initiatives to actively make data available in standardized formats for innovation (read about the US DATA act). A search on UK’s OpenData reveals 652 open National Health Service datasets covering statistics from obesity to alcohol consumption. India’s Open Data Initiative has 7,700+ datasetsthat include healthcare datasets covering immunization and disease statistics on AIDS. Over time, most progressive governments will follow the US path and steadily reveal population health data hoping for innovative fixes to healthcare problems.
There’s a lot of data out there but very little by way of wisdom that can impact how healthcare decisions are made globally. That’s where healthcare entrepreneurs, data analysts and AI algorithms come in. A newer way to understand and present information can bring greater transparency and efficiency, curtailing healthcare fraud and bringing clarity to patient care.