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What We Learned: The Health Datapalooza - Health Data Initiative Forum (HDI) III

by P.J. Grier, Outreach and Access Coordinator, NN/LM, SE/A Region

In June, I attended the third annual HDI Forum, aka – The Health Datapalooza, in Washington DC.  Most of my time was spent with NLM experts Loren Frant, Stephanie Dennis, and Serena Burgess in the exhibit booth promoting MedlinePlus Connect, MedlinePlus web service, and MedlinePlus XML files. Working at the booth allowed the NLM’ers extra time to make important connections with consumer health content providers as well as last minute preparation for the panel session on NLM Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

The HDI is a recently formed health industry public/private consortium whose intended goal is to find new solutions that retrieve data from government, payor and healthcare provider sources. According to its website, the consortium “encourages the creation of a health data ecosystem that promotes and accelerates the innovative use of health data”. You may have heard synonymous terms such as mining “big data”, “latent data” or even “lazy data,” all of which refer to the ability to tap into enormous resources of de-identified information. Retrieving these data allow innovators to further population and patient research; a huge effort jumpstarted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it launched HDI a few years ago.

What is the Health Datapalooza? The technology conference encourages innovative applications, mostly from entrepreneurs and start-ups, to meet the critical needs of patient care providers and health researchers. Hosted by HHS, it was previously held on NIH’s main campus, but with dramatically increased attendance this year’s event was held at the Washington DC Convention Center. It brings together the brightest risk-takers in engineering, computer science, medicine, and nursing with healthcare providers, administrators, leading edge venture capitalists, think-tank agencies, and foundations. Many of the novel apps, not all with commercial intent, work in concert with a healthcare institution’s IT infrastructure, most notably an electronic health record system (EHR-S). Additionally, several organizations provided IT competitions, that when judged by review panels, offer substantial awards to the winning teams.  In addition to the overall competition hosted by HDI, other participating organizations rolling out a gauntlet of challenges included the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Healthcare Foundation, and the New York eHealth Collaborative.

On day two, there was a stellar cast of speakers including the nation’s chief technology officer – Todd Park, HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and Dr. Bill Frist – physician and former U.S. Senate Majority (TN) Leader. The theme of Secretary Sebelius’ talk was the recognition of an innovation gap in healthcare. She acknowledged the tremendous advances in medical treatments and interventions, but felt that many underlying processes and systems are still 40 years old, which inhibit efficiencies.  The Secretary stated that currently, there are 60 major health systems that have applied to form accountable care organizations with more in the pipeline, the rate of healthcare venture capital is up 60% since 2009, and itriage, a mobile app created by a Colorado ER physician with a focus on consumer health empowerment, was recently purchased by Aetna, a payor.

Dr. Bill Frist spoke of rapid advancements in personalized medicine at the molecular level and some of the resulting challenges. He conveyed the recent discovery of the ability to harness non-beating heart adult stem cells and making them mimic beating heart cells. This technique could possibly replace damaged heart muscle, thus alleviating the need for heart transplantation in some patients.  In closing, he recommended a book by David Agnus, MD entitled The End of Illness.

Interspersed between the speakers, were healthcare apps demonstrations.   Three of the highlighted apps were:

  • Indigo – Creates individualized patient guidelines based on the degree of risk a patient displays for adverse events.
  • MEDgle.com/API – The API allows development of health applications leveraging the power of MEDgle expert system and search
  • Stratasan – Access to clean and immediate intelligence and analytics from the vast amount of healthcare data.

What does this mean for SE/A network members?  Quoting Secretary Sebelius, “if new incentives are the engine for innovation and new technologies like electronic health records are the vehicle, then data is the fuel.”  Gatherings like Health Datapalooza reinforce the reality that electronic health record systems will be repositories for patient data, and that over time, apps, utilities, APIs and other IT structures will strengthen their connections within electronic health record systems. Inasmuch as you are able, become familiar with these IT structures and the manner in which they are deployed within your clinical community because they will undoubtedly yield new sources of information and new directions in healthcare.

For further information on this topic, please contact P.J. Grier @ pgrier@hshsl.umaryland.edu

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