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Big data surge from federal agencies will drive health IT

Kenneth Corbin | June 4, 2013
Department of Health and Human Services unleashes new structured data sets as it encourages the developer community to build new health IT applications to improve patient care.

Code-a-Palooza Encourages Developers to Tap Medicare Data
HHS is also co-sponsoring the "Code-a-Palooza" contest in which teams of developers will compete for $25,000 in prizes in a marathon coding session at this week's conference, using a set of Medicare data to build applications that primary care providers could use to improve the health of their patients.

"The world now recognizes that the critical component to driving transformation in a system that badly needs disruption and transformation is data," says HHS CTO Bryan Sivak.

Joining the department in sponsoring the coding contest are Socrata, a company offering open-data services, and the Health Data Consortium, the group that organized this week's conference.

The consortium grew out of the open data efforts that began in earnest at HHS in 2009 under the leadership of Todd Park, then the CTO of the department who now serves as CTO for the federal government.

That outpouring of data has created the foundation for upwards of 1,000 new applications and companies in the burgeoning field of health IT, according to Bob Kocher, co-chair of the Health Datapalooza planning committee and venture partner at the VC group Venrock.

"More data has come out of HHS in the last four years than it has in the entire history of HHS—high-quality, electronically downloadable, machine-readable data that you can do things with," Kocher says.

Steven Krein, the other conference co-chair and the CEO of StartUp Health, says he sees a constellation of factors—some technical, others not—rapidly converging to usher in "the most amazing decade in health care."

As a policy matter, there is the implementation of Obama's healthcare reform law, which, along with other legislation, includes incentives for the adoption of health IT systems.

But then, too, new health technologies become all the more essential in the face of the steady rise in medical costs and the onset of chronic conditions that will attend an aging population, according to Krein.

"When you combine those two conditions with mobile and digital health and health data—and the fact that we're living in the golden age of entrepreneurship, and that access to capital, access to experts and access to data is unlike ever before—you can see that the next decade is set up for all of us to continue to lean in," Krein says.

"The commitment from the government is real. The impact is real. The commitment from the entrepreneurs is real," Krein says. "The commitment from the partners and the customers is real, and it's happening."


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