Health Datapalooza 2015: more data, better health

Guest columnist and data analytics whiz Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) sat in on the Health Data Consortium’s 2015 edition of Health Datapalooza last week in Washington, DC. It was all about the data that Medicare has been diligently harvesting. Also see the US-UK connection on obesity.

Health Datapalooza 2015, now in its sixth year, welcomed more than 2,000 innovators, healthcare industry executives, policymakers, venture capitalists, startups, developers, researchers, providers, consumers and patient advocates. Health Datapalooza brings together stakeholders to discuss how best to work the advance health and healthcare,” said Susan Dentzer, senior policy adviser to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a member of the Health Data Consortium. The Consortium promotes health data best practices and information sharing; and works with businesses, entrepreneurs, and academia to help them understand how to use data to develop new products, services, apps and research insights. This year’s conference was held on May 31 through June 3 in Washington, DC. And how best to celebrate is with the gift of more data!

New Medicare Data Means More Transparency
The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its third annual update to the Medicare hospital inpatient and outpatient charge data on June 1, 2013. Now data will be available on inpatient and outpatient hospital charge data for 2011, 2012 and 2013, and will provide access to information on what different hospitals in all 50 states and Washington, DC charge for similar services. A comparison on the average hospital charges for services that may be provided in connection with the 100 most common Medicate in-patient stays, such as services provided in connection with certain joint replacement or services provided to treat chest pain. Hospitals determine what they will charge for items and services provided to patient and these “charges” are the amounts the hospital bills for those items or services. Also there is average Medicare payment information do the top inpatient discharges, which provide a point of comparison against hospital charges for the services. Hospital utilization information is detailed by the number of discharges for each service at each hospital. The inpatient data source is the Medicare Providers Analysis and Review (MedPAR) dataset for fiscal year 2013.

Welcome to the Data Party, Entrepreneurs and Innovators
On the second Palooza day, CMS announced a new policy that for the first time innovators and entrepreneurs will have access to CMS data, such as Medicare claims. Innovators and entrepreneurs will access data via the CMS Virtual Research Data Center (VRDC), which provides access to granular CMS program data, including Medicare fee-for-service claims data, in an efficient and cost effective manner. As a way to benefit health care consumers, new approved research will foster improved care and better tools. “Historically, CMS has prohibited researchers from accessing detailed CMS data if they intended to use it to develop products or tools to sell,” said Niall Brennan, CMS chief data officer and director of Enterprise and Data Analytics. “However, as the delivery system transforms from rewarding volume to value, data will play a key role. We hope that this new policy will lead to additional innovation and insight from the CMS data.”

Going International: US/UK Partnership for an Obesity Data Challenge
The Obesity Data Challenge, is part of an ongoing partnership between HHS and NHS England that began in January 2011 to work together on health data and information technology tools to improve the quality and delivery of care in both countries. The HDC and the de Beaumont Foundation of England are looking for solutions to help patient and families address the obesity epidemic at both a personal and community level. “The Obesity Data Challenge represents a true milestone in our collaboration with the UK. Though out health care systems are different, there are opportunities in our health data to build solutions ad tools that bring together providers and consumers to meaningfully address obesity in both countries,” said HHS Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN.

This article was originally published on and is republished here with their kind permission.

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