By David Harlow

First Posted at HealthBlawg on 6/5/2013

David Harlow, host of HealthBlawg

David Harlow, host of HealthBlawg

This year’s Health Datapalooza was the biggest to date. This is an event that keeps growing, as the government commitment to open data and the marketplace’s insatiable thirst for data — and of course the information, knowledge and wisdom that may be gleaned from all that data — continue to grow.

Interestingly, this year’s focus seemed to veer away from Todd Park’s original vision of open APIs for federal agency health data (though Kathleen Sebelius announced some additional data releases regarding hospital charges and Medicare payment for certain outpatient procedures) and into the broader field of health data — What is it? What more can we capture? How can we use it productively? This was reflected by the range of presentations, exhibitors, and challenges.

The exploration of new sources and uses of data is promoted by “Challengeology” — the emerging field of designing and running codeathons and programming challenges, with cash prizes offered to developer teams to allow them to continue to develop their ideas, and hopefully implement them, commercialize them, and change the world/improve health status of a target population. (Prizewinners keep their IP.)

The Datapalooza saw some challenge winners and some new challenges.

Health-Datapalooza-IV

Challenge winners included:

Data Design Diabetes challenge, sponsored by Sanofi US, netted $100,000 to Connect & Coach by PHRQL (pronounced freckle).

Designed for the retail supermarket or pharmacy setting, Connect & Coach™ is the first hybrid clinical & consumer application for RD’s & CDE’s to perform Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) and Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) services in the community where it’s needed.

The codeapalooza winners were announced at the end of the conference.

RWJF announced a new $100,000 challenge to make sense of the charge data being released by HHS.

The Blue Button Plus initiative is seeking input from patients (for just a couple more days now) on designing the challenge, and will welcome patient participants in teams competing in the challenge.

Kaiser Permanente announced Interchange  — an open API for its data (so far the data seems limited to office locations and hours, but perhaps the codeathon at the KP Center for Total Health following the Datapalooza announcement will yield more excitement than that initial announcement — and more types of data are supposed to flow through the API in the future.

Keynotes included the ever-popular Jonathan Bush extolling the virtues of cloud-enabled health data sharing (“you can do this sober,” he says) and the somewhat drier Atul Gawande. The Right Honorable Jeremy Hunt (UK Secretary of Health) was another standout speaker.

Some of the excellent breakout sessions included panels on big data, on privacy, on wearable sensors, on tracking of employee health by employers (on this last point, I didn’t get a satisfactory answer to the questions raised by the recent RAND report on wellness programs).

Check out the tweets from the event here: #hdpalooza

As always, some of the best sessions were the hallway conversations with the scary-smart Health Datapaloozers — speakers and other attendees, friends old and new — about health data, privacy and security issues, and the mission that drives everyone who showed up at the conference: accelerating improvement in health care quality by liberating the data.