Chopra's message: Open up data, share innovative approaches

America’s former CTO says healthcare can learn from creative approaches in both the public and private sectors.
By Laura Lovett
03:44 PM
aneesh chopra

LAS VEGAS – Healthcare is in need of a culture change when it comes to sharing data, Aneesh Chopra, president of NavHealth and former U.S. chief technology officer under President Barack Obama, said Monday at HIMSS18.

All over the world, healthcare innovators are developing new technologies and using data to help. However, this information isn’t always available for others to use. 

“In a world of unknown, it is better to bet on more shots on the goal and bring [in] ideas,” Chopra said during his opening keynote address at the HIMSS Innovation Symposium. “It is finding ways to tap into that creativity that compels us and the only way that will happen.”

Chopra drove the shift from closed to opened innovation during his stint with the Obama administration, often learning from both public and private sector approaches.

“I took from Proctor & Gamble and Facebook the notion we should provide air cover to agencies,” said Chopra. “And … to seek ideas and to open up, whenever feasible, all of our underlying assets so we could tap into this broader ecosystem of developers and innovators especially, in areas of the economy that were data rich but insights poor.”

There are already examples of healthcare innovators taking advantage of public data. One of the first data points that the government released was GPS. Louisville doctor, David Van Sickle used GPS data to measure patient inhalers. He teamed up with the city’s mayor and were able to put a GPS chip on a number of inhalers. He discovered that certain sections of the city had a disproportionate number of attacks. This allowed the city to reallocate public health resources and reduce the risk. Since then Van Sickle has commercialized the technology and founded Propeller Health. 

“Sometimes you have to create the capacity for innovation,” said Chopra. 

Chopra named Apple Health as one of the avenues to help opening up data sharing and innovation. Apple Health, which consolidates health data from iPhone sensors, Apple Watches and third-party apps, also has a toolkit component for innovators to create apps. 

But instead of keeping the Apple Health data system closed to Apple products, it can integrate data from multiple platforms. 

Apple health has recently announced that it is launching a personal health record feature that will aggregate existing patient-generated data in the Health app from users EHR if the user is from a participating hospital. 

But as healthcare looks to more data sharing, it is important for more companies to protect patient data, said Chopra. 

“As we liberate this data and move into Apple Health we have to think about our relationship to the patient,” Chopra said. “While we liberate the data we will face our own obligation to steward that data in a new Hippocratic Oath.”

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