SXSW: Todd Park from HHS on the Power of Open Health Data

Interesting…Todd Park introduces himself as the CTO and “entrepreneur in residence” at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. I think his point is that his background is tech entrepreneurship. He says, “That may lead you to ask what the hell I’m doing working for the federal government.”

My notes below are paraphrases [my best efforts] of Park’s talk and my comments in italics.

So he is supposed to work with the government to figure out how to harness the power of data to improve public health in America. He’s going to describe several things they’re doing at HHS. Never been a better time to be an entrepreneur at the intersection of health care and IT. Amen to that.

There are new incentives + information freedom that add up to rocket fuel for innovation.

Starts with “meaningful use,” the new Medicare/Medicaid incentives that reward meaningful use — improving outcomes — of electronic health records [EHR]. Government is trying to send a signal to the industry of what appropriate, meaningful use of EHR is.

Meaningful use is the appetizer when it comes to incentive change.

The big enchilada is payment reform.

Obamacare [OK, he uses the formal name of the bill, the Affordable Care Act] is designed to shift from pay for services to pay for health and value.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center is funding to identify ways that payment reform is already working, identifying experiments that work. Oh, I remember this. This is the part of the bill I was scoffing at, thinking it was too small-scale to make a difference. Park says that if Medicard/Medicaid identifies a working reform, then it’s a regulation change, not a law change, to implement it. That’s the secret sauce in this bill, it seems. The $10B to fund the innovation center has been “appropriated.” Hmm. I have to check on that. I thought that’s what the GOP is trying to de-fund.

Reforming payment systems
He’s got a really massive slide with a lot of actually useful terminology on it, but it’s a lot to capture and explain here. Gist of it is, there are a number of ways that we can improve access and reform payment to achieve savings and better health. Good. He’s posting his slides somewhere. More on that later.Updated 3/19/2011: Park’s slides from SXSW are now on Slideshare.

Information Liberation
Park enjoys saying liberacion in Spanish with great flair.
The Direct Project
This is a collaborative project to enable simple, secure tramission of health care data over the Internet. 60 vendors now implementing this solution according to government standard released in 6/10.

Blue Button
This allows any veteran or Medicare beneficiary to get an electronic copy of their own health information. Launched in October 2010 and more than 200,000 downloads so far.

So another initiative is trying to make the market more transparent. is part of this. It has a comprehensive list of all open insurance plans in the use, including pricing. They will release APIs of this data later in the year.

Next: Want to morph HHS into the NOAA of Health Data. Now this is kind of cool. They have already begun publishing data on the CHDI website. There’s some interesting looking stuff there. I will have to dive in further later. From a work session they had last year…Park says Tim O’Reilly said, you can’t make people find the data. The data has to find them. Now, Bing is using the CHDI data to show patient satisfaction data in search results when you search for a hospital. National Association of Counties helps counties set up public sites using this data, showing health information for their communities. Healthy Communities Dashboard. Community Clash is another site built on this health data. [Disclosure: Community Clash is a Healthways site, which is a client of mine, but I haven’t worked on that site.]

Asthmapolis….lets you geographically track where you are having asthma attacks with a GPS connected to your inhaler. Soon will be anonomizing the data so we can have asthma maps to find hotspots.

This guy is rapid-fire machine-gun spewing health data projects at us. There is a LOT going on.….downloadable data and available via API. Community health data.….APIs to compare hospitals, nursing homes, home health, dialysis. Soon physician compare.
They are going to take Medicare claims files available to qualified people [ie., people who can handle privacy requirements, I guess] to do quality analysis.

MedLinePlus – Can send patient education materials in response to EHR queries via its API.

All this stuff is mentioned/linked on Oh, also includes a link to other sites offering free health data.

Mentions a brand new funding org for health apps: Rock Health.

For those who think health data, or any data, is a snore, please see Todd Park speak as soon as possible. I have never seen so much energy about data.

Now he’s talking about entrepreneurship and startups. “If you get the best people, you win.” Wants to get superstar talent focusing on health data. He wants you to contact him to do a health data camp or if you need help with health data: or @todd_park. Is now begging people to email him. Please contact this man about health data.

Park is getting a real accolade from a guy behind me, who tells the room about the industry suffering through a decade of empty promises and now the past year of fabulous, growing access to government health data. Well said.

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