Todd Park, chief technology officer of the Department of Heath and Human Services, has been working to unlock innovation through open health data for over a year now. On many levels, the effort is the best story in federal open data. In the video below, he talks with my publisher, Tim O’Reilly, about collaboration and innovation in the healthcare system.
Check out this article about HealthData.gov including footage of Park talking about the “health data eco-system” at the code-a-thon (and actually, the video also features local health hacker Alan Viars sitting there at the right).
Here are 3 blog posts about last year’s event, including mine:
“People underestimate the amount of innovation going on,” said Bill Gates at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. today. “They assume tech remains the same.” Given the thousands of attendees walking around the floor to see the mobile technology on display, there will be more awareness of what’s happening by the end of the day. Those listening to Gates in person or online could take away a few more lessons as well.
First of all, the key applications in the mobile health world are those that are tied to better outcomes, said Gates. Metrics like the number of children dying is one such metric, he said, and could be mitigated by mobile apps that register every birth on a cellphone to track vaccine coverage. Tracking supply chain for medical supplies and online medical records also can lower key metrics like child mortality, said Gates. Highlights from Bill Gate’s keynote conversation with Dr. Kristin Tolle are embedded below:
“In general, the world underfunds research because the person who takes the risk doesn’t capture the full benefit,” said Gates. “Government comes in for things the market doesn’t work well on.” Some research and development simply won’t get funded otherwise, in the absence of a strong profit motive. That’s likely one reason the Gates Foundation has focused on malaria, a disease that big pharmaceutical companies haven’t put significant resources behind.
“As the world goes from 6 billion to 9 billion, all of that population growth is in urban slums,” said Gates. That context provides a target for innovation in mobile healthcare technology, particularly given the increasing penetration of cellphones. Improving mortality rates is also relevant to that burgeoning population, he reflected. “Within a decade of having better health outcomes, people decide to have less children,” said Gates. citing the research of Han Rosling. Rosling’s TED Talk is below:
What’s the medical challenge for the aid community to target? “Funding vaccines is so clear,” said Gates. Polio may not get eradicated because of a lack of funding, he said, reflecting on “going begging” around the world to try to get the last $800 million dollars for vaccine.
What’s next? Where will innovation be happening and change how societies work? “Now the idea is to do digital transactions where you don’t use currency at all,” said Gates, pointing to M-PESA in Africa and the huge growth in mcommerce.
Those changes may not be proportional to the greatest needs, however, nor grounded in the traditional frame of ‘first world vs developing world.’ According to Gates, “middle income countries are where the most innovation in healthcare is going to happen.” The poorest countries need to address the true basic for survival before mhealth can make progress.
In richer countries, meaningful change is already happening because of mobile apps. Some of those innovations are just beginning to filter in. “What percentage of people have to be put in longterm care, versus have someone stop by?” asked Gates. Cellphones already enable new monitoring capabilities for seniors, children and caregivers; he anticipates better sensors and connectivity to change how we communicate and watch one another even further in the decades to come.
In a bid for the hearts and minds (and perhaps wallets) of the entrepreneurs present, Gates observed that conditions like obesity, diabetes and smoking cessation are good candidates for mobile health technology to address in rich countries.
He also appealed to officials making decisions on government policy and funding decisions. “The degree that health and education go together – I don’t think that’s surprising,” he said. “We should invest in both.”
Asked to reflect upon where to invest next, Gates was clear: “If you just pick one thing, it’s got to be robots,” citing improvements in robotic mobility, dexterity, productivity and the growing needs of both an aging population and childcare.
He also reflected upon the future hinted at by the increasing use of big data tools to deliver insight. “Our ability to discover drugs using computation – that is changing,” he said. “In a ten to fifteen year period, it will be utterly different.”
What is the federal chief technology officer up to out in Silicon Valley? From afar, however, it’s looks like federal CTO Aneesh Chopra is stirring up awareness about open government and entrepreneurship in the venture capital community in California. He’s also traveling with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CTO Todd Park to add his compatriot’s considerable enthusiasm for innovation in healthcare information technology (HIT). Chopra’s slides follow:
During the event, I picked up some tweets coming out of a “D.C.-to-Silicon Valley” event and curated them using the Storify tool. It proved to be a bit unstable – apps in beta are fun! – but you’ll find a “living version” of the story embedded in the post below.
Have you met Todd Park? He’s the first CTO of Health and Human Services Department of the United States. Earlier this week, he announced the upcoming launch of HealthData.gov, a new website that will publish open government health data. If you’re unfamiliar with Park, I interviewed him at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo:
Park and I talked about his open government work at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he’s been trying to make community health information as useful as weather data. We also spoke about the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge, a series of code-a-thons and team competitions to build apps based upon community health data. “Games are a non-trivial information dissemination approach” that can drive actionable behavior, said Park at HealthCamp, referring to many of the entries that use game mechanics to socialize the data. The developer challenge culminated this week during the fourth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.
The nation now can see more about what the tech community has come up since this spring, when the question of whether there’s a healthcare app for that was answered the first time. “Social value and economic value can go hand in hand,” he said to a health IT summit in San Francisco. Below, Park talks about the Veterans Administration’s new “Blue Button,” which provides access to downloadable personal health data.
Veterans who log onto My HealtheVet at http://www.myhealth.va.gov and click the Blue Button can save or print information from their own health records. Using a similar Blue Button, Medicare beneficiaries who are registered users of http://www.mymedicare.gov can log onto a secure site where they can save or print their Medicare claims and self-entered personal information. Data from of each site can be used to create portable medical histories that will facilitate dialog with Veterans’ and beneficiaries’ health care providers, caregivers, and other trusted individuals or entities.
This new option will help Veterans and Medicare beneficiaries save their information on individual computers and portable storage devices or print that information in hard copy. Having ready access to personal health information from Medicare claims can help beneficiaries understand their medical history and partner more effectively with providers. With the advent of the Blue Button feature, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to view their claims and self-entered information—and be able to export that data onto their own computer. The information is downloaded as an “ASCII text file,” the easiest and simplest electronic text format. This file is also easy to read by the individual; it looks like an organized report.
More than 60,000 people have already downloaded their PHRs. As those technically savvy writers emphasize, however, this will create thousands of opportunities to have that sensitive data leak. They stressed the importance of using encryption and password protection to protect the records. For those watching the development of health IT, the future that the 3 CTOs hint about near the end of the post will be of particular interest:
Soon, Blue Button users may be able to augment the downloaded information that is housed on their computers—or that they transferred to a commercial personal health record or other health application—through automated connections to, and downloads from, major pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS; lab systems such as Quest and LabCorp; and an increasing number of inpatient and outpatient electronic medical records systems.
Can social media, open government and an API lead to a better pill identification system? What about a collaborative effort between Big Pharma and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that could result in pictures of medications on labels for the first time?
Every year, poison control centers get more than one million calls for pill identification. Each one of those calls costs nearly $50. Social software is helping biomedical researchers collaborate on better ways of identifying drugs. “Pillbox is a digital platform for communities to solve challenges related to pharmaceutical identification and reference,” says David Hale, the program manager. The National Library of Medicine’s mission is to gather, curate and distribute the world’s biomedical information, said Hale.
Pillbox is an open government initiative from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration that could transform how pharmaceuticals are labeled in the future. The interactive web application currently allows visitors to rapidly identify unknown solid medications, like tablets or capsules, based upon their shape, color and other markings. Pillbox remains a research and development project, so users should not be making clinical decisions just yet. Right now there are over 1,000 images of prescription drugs in the system, with many more to come in the next few months.
In the video below, Hale demonstrates the platform: