Health Data Initiative a 'celebration of what health innovators have done'

By Molly Merrill
11:34 AM

Forty-five new and updated health applications that harness the power of open data from HHS and other sources are being presented Thursday at the 2nd Annual Health Data Initiative Forum in New York.

The initiative was opened by Matt Miller, host of NPR's Left, Right & Center, who called the work being presented "the beginning of enormous sets of innovative data" being used to "touch all our lives as patients."

As Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine put it, if you were to zero in on a "single slogan" for today, it would be that "information shall set you free. However, only if you can use it."

"We are privileged to hear about new apps that take advantage of available data and convert it to usable info," said Fineberg – information that will "enable everyone to make more informed decisions."

"Empowering consumers to take control of their own healthcare" is exactly what this is all about, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This year the showcase upped the ante for innovators, she said. "In addition to a useful tool, all presenters had to have a sustainable business model." Out of the 75 applications submitted 45 were chosen.

"The power of this initiative is tapping into American ingenuity," Sebelius added, but it is also about jobs of the future. She called on innovators to make their tools more widely available: "Do it more, do it bigger and do it faster."

"The Health Data Initiative is a major effort to turn HHS into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of health data," said Todd Park, chief technology officer at HHS.

Sebelius referred to Park as the "energizer bunny for health IT" and he delivered on that notion with the excitement he showed at the podium. Miller also referred to him as "author of emancipation proclamation of healthcare data."

"Today is a day of massive celebration of what health innovators have done," said Park. 

Park announced that HHS has published new data, has made existing data easier to use, and is publicizing data to innovators across the country. Among the data being liberated is: community health data, provider directory and quality data, claims data, blue button data, consumer product information, medical and scientific knowledge, and government spend data.

"The deliverable is an ecosystem of innovation that leverages data to improve health," said Park. He said the ecosystem is meant to be owned or managed, but rather to be a grassroots driven effort.

The forum gave an inside look at three applications that are truly doing cool things for healthcare.

The iTriage application, which essentially helps consumers with what condition they might have and where they might go to get it treated, has added data on mental health and substance abuse, according to Peter Hudson, MD, CEO of Healthagen.

Starting today, he said the new data will provide consumers with finding the right kind of facility for the symptoms and problems they might be experiencing in these areas. iTriage provides an address search to find the nearest facility and then allows the consumer to book their appointment right there and then.

In a testimonial on the app one doctor said that iTriage not only helps people take better responsibility for healthcare, but helps them advocate for themselves in a "complicated healthcare system."
Brian Kelly, head of Informatics at Aetna Health Plans, showed off ten off the company's new apps that its 3,000 nurses will be using. The apps will also be free to any providers using the Medicity platform.  Some of the new apps included a county demographic app, nursing home compare data app, food stamp app and dietary counseling app.

But the biggest announcement was that this summer Aetna will blue button the 10 million personal health records they have.

Charlene Caburnay, PhD, a research assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University, showcased Ozioma, which serves to help reporters create localized stories for specific populations. Ozioma is Nigerian for "good news" and it was designed to enrich the health environment in minority communities.

Ozioma provides information on health data such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. The app can transform a reporter's story from something national to something much more localized and has the ability to localize it for multiple areas.

The Health Data Initiative Forum will continue until 5 p.m. ET, and can be followed on Twitter at #healthapps.