In a New York Times column, Obamacare’s Other Surprise, Thomas L. Friedman wrote that health data is “creating a new marketplace and platform for innovation – a health care Silicon Valley – that has the potential to create better outcomes at lower costs.” The growth of this new industry is due, in large part, to the federal health care law’s financial incentives for groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that can prove they’re more efficient and higher in quality than competitors.
The idea behind all of this is that if the government provides the public with health data it has already collected on things such as quality and prices, innovators will turn it into new tools that advance health and lower costs across the system. In fact, a lot of the new technology being developed has been expanded by a decision of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to make data available that had been gathered over the years, but had not been accessible in computer readable forms that could be used to improve health care. Last month, HHS hosted the Health Data Initiative Forum IV which has come to be known as “Health Datapalooza.” The conference is a forum that features the newest and most innovative uses of health data. Events at last month’s conference included a contest to come up with the best health app on the spot and a hack-a-thon to see who could come up with a brilliant way to use Medicare claims data.
It’s hard to know whether the questions about health care costs and quality can be answered by the next great app, but the momentum for this type of innovation has definitely started.