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Unleashing data to improve health careIn an interview, Health and Human Services CTO Todd Park explains to CNET's Ina Fried some of the benefits that result when entrepreneurs and researchers can better make use of the government's vast data on health care.
-I'm Ina Fried with CNET. Here with Todd Park who is the CTO for The Department of Health and Human Services. One of the initiatives that you guys undertook is that for a long time HHS has had a lot of interesting data. But as you've talked about it, it just kinds of sat there. What did you guys decide to do with it and how's that working? -Yeah! So, it's a major priority of the president and the secretary of HHS to leverage the power of our data to help improve health in the country. And so where we started in support of this imperative, something we called The Community Health Data Initiative which just got started this past month and the whole idea behind The Community Health Data Initiative is take a whole bunch of data that HHS has about community health; the smoking rates, obesity rates, access to healthy food, hospital readmissions, etc. Take that data, actually they're very easy to find, easy to use and make it available to developers, the innovators, who then take that data and turn it into super cool applications that consumers and patients and buyers and employers and government officials to use to make that their decisions to improve health. So, we actually, brought people together, March 11, to brainstorm about this idea, and the model that we actually invoked was what, we are great admirers of NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which publishes tons of weather data as really the primary spot of weather data in America, but which actually doesn't have to run weather.com or the Weather Channel or build like weather apps because lots of other people actually do that powered by the data that NOAA makes available for free without intellectual property constraint. So, with The Community Health Data Initiative post this March 11, we talked about the idea of making HHS the NOAA of health data and we put out an initial website with a list of data sets on community health. Actually, a lot of the data sets have been in the public domain quietly for years but nobody had known about it. You know, they're impossible to find, you know, some sort. So, we actually just created a central site where it's easy to find the data, where the data was available, and really easy to use forms relatively speaking, and where we challenge innovators to build apps. -And so it's been a few months but what are some of the things people have done with it. -Yeah! So actually if one goes to a YouTube and types in The Community Health Data Initiative you can actually see these demos for yourself. I'm trying to do justice to them, but innovators out there in the world outside the government just did amazing things with the data. So for example, a Microsoft thing took our hospital-compared data set which has hospital-to-hospital quality ratings and patient's satisfaction ratings and integrated into search. So for a lot of hospital, when you type in say New York Presbyterian Hospital, it's a Bing, it pulls up in a search result the patient's satisfactory rating with New York Presbyterian versus state average. A joint venture of The National Association of Counties, a company called Trilogy, and UC Berkeley put together this thing called Network of Care and basically a really cool community health dashboard which went live in Sonoma County initially And now it's going cross-country, Basically it shows when your community, in layperson's terms, how your community is doing. In ways able to understand versus key health indicators like smoking or obesity or some sort. It also links you into a community update inventory of really cool things that other communities are doing across the country that help move the needle positively on indicators. -And this is aggregate data. You're not uploading my health? -No, no, no. Yeah! It's also national state county level aggregate rates of smoking, obesity, access to healthy food, etc, so all aggregate community level data. -What are some of the data that's not out there yet that you'd like to see get out there and get more widely used and how does data have an impact? How does that translate into improved healthcare broadly? -Yeah! So, it's a great question. I think that, you know, there's all kinds of data HHS has that could be useful. There's this community health data we've been talking about. There's, you know, this hospital compare, nursing home compare, home health agency compare, individual provider level data that can be incredibly useful and help people actually find a great provider. There's mass amounts of data that The National Library of Medicine has that's made available to APIs, you know, PubChem, MedlinePlus. You know, tons and tons and tons of really amazing knowledge that can be incredibly useful. Here's, you know, FDA data on food, device, and drug recalls which are made ever more available in [unk] forms. There's actually the ability as per blue button, which we've talking about in other conversation, right? For people to get their own individual health data through the VA and Medicare portals. I think the actual whole point of the CHDI, The Community Health Data Initiative is that we don't actually know all of the incredibly cool things to be done with the data and to help people make their decisions and so our roles is just to make the data available and how the innovators of the world come up with incredibly cool things and help patients and consumers, employers, and providers and local government officials make better decisions about what provider to go to, about what investments to make locally about you know where to locate a factory, you know, so on and so forth and so we're really eager to see what happens. But, you know, as always I'd like you say, right, you know, no matter who you are, most of the smart people, well, don't work for you. We wanna leverage to all the smart people that don't work us, to do things that we never would have thought of that can help consumers and patients and providers, employers of America make better decisions and improve the well being. -Great. Thanks. I've been speaking with Todd Park who is the CTO for The Department of Health and Human Services. For CNET, I'm Ina Fried.