Sebelius, Gawande Discuss Importance of Health Data Transparency

June 4, 2014 in News

In the keynote address at the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted her agency’s success in organizing health care information into useful databases for public use and innovation, Government Health IT reports.

Sebelius said, “The information oligarchy — something that plagues so many large [federal] departments — is a thing of the past at HHS,” which has instead “grown into an open data democracy.”

Sebelius said that HHS has released more than 1,000 data sets, noting that the agency committed itself to “liberating the flow of information, to convert that lazy data into active data, to push it into the public domain for the common good,” while protecting patient information (Manos, Government Health IT, 6/3).

Sebelius added that HHS has helped hospitals and other health care providers switch from paper files to electronic health records, noting that the industry is “now over the tipping point, where most hospitals and most providers are using” EHRs.

She added, “These reforms represent a march of progress that can only go in one direction, and that direction is ‘forward’” (Shueh, Government Technology, 6/3).

Gawande Calls for Better Data

Speaking at the same conference, Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande discussed the need for good health data above and beyond the “data exhaust” on which providers currently rely, Healthcare IT News reports.

Gawande said that current data show how the sickest patients typically incur the most health care costs and receive the least effective care, but additional data on how such patients function in their day-to-day lives could boost health care outcomes and lower costs.

“Data still [aren't] at the center of health care,” he said, adding, “We can solve [care] problems in single institutions, but to make this scalable we have to make the invisible visible” (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 6/3).

Code-a-Palooza, Digital Privacy Notice Winners Announced

Meanwhile, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on Tuesday announced the winners of Health Datapalooza’s Code-a-Palooza and Digital Privacy Notice Winners, Clinical Innovation Technology reports.

The Code-a-Palooza featured 55 participants who presented visualization tools designed to help consumers use Medicare provider payment data (Pedulli, Clinical Innovation Technology, 6/3). In April, CMS posted online Medicare physician payment data, marking the first time such data has been released to the public since 1979 (iHealthBeat, 4/9).

Winners of the Code-a-Palooza were:  

  • LufeChannel’s Smart Health Hero, a digital tool that allows patients and their families to use the Medicare data to calculate health care costs, which came in first place;
  • Accordian Health, which came in second place; and
  • Karmadata, which came in third place.

Meanwhile, ONC and HHS’ Office of Civil Rights named the winners of the Digital Privacy Challenge:

  • PatientPrivilege, a tool that helps consumers integrate privacy notices from providers and insurers directly into their EHRs or their providers’ portals, won first place;
  • The Raj won second place; and
  • Health Privacy Notice Generator by EXIT won third place.

In addition, ONC announced that 23 new federal and private organizations pledged to join the Blue Button program (Clinical Innovation Technology, 6/3).

In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Blue Button tool to help veterans access and exchange their personal health data in a standard, consistent manner. Since then, other private and federal agencies have implemented the tool (iHealthBeat, 4/24).

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