HHS stretches worth of healthcare data
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Several announcements made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicate the degree to which a better handle of data is impacting the healthcare landscape.

HHS’ two-day, third annual “Datapalooza” ended today. Co-hosted with the Institute of Medicine and other members of the Health Data Consortium, the Health Data Initiative Forum III focused on innovative applications and services that use open data from HHS and other sources.

The event featured more than 100 new or updated technologies, up from 45 last year, that help serve the needs of consumers, providers, employers, public health leaders and policymakers.

HHS made several announcements during the event, including the fact that data found in the Healthcare.gov Insurance Options Finder is now available through an application programming interface (API), enabling the data to be machine readable and downloaded by third-party developers. The Insurance Options Finder allows users to compare different plans, including details such as the percentage of people who applied for coverage and were denied. HealthCare.gov collects and displays public options, private insurance plans and small group markets.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched an initiative to transform the agency’s approach to data and analytics. The agency plans to evolve from a fee-for-service based payor to a “value-based purchaser of care,” linking payments to quality and efficiency of care, rather than sheer volume of services. CMS created a new Office of Information Products and Data Analysis to lead the initiative. The new office will strive to make development, management, use and dissemination of data and information resources a core function of CMS.

The initiative is designed to modernize CMS’ intricate data systems and policies and help the agency improve healthcare delivery. Data and information resources available under CMS’ initiative include:
  • Medicare Geographic Variation Trend Data: A dataset that leverages nearly five billion Medicare claims in a data format that provides key metrics at the state and hospital referral region levels.
  • Medicare Enrollment Dashboard: An online dashboard that provides a single location with statistics on Medicare enrollment (Parts A, B, and D and Medicare Advantage).
  • Medicare & Medicaid Research Review: A peer-reviewed online journal on current and future directions of the Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance.
  • CMS Data Navigator: A web-based search tool that connects researchers, policymakers and the general public to the CMS data resources they need.

The Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT announced the winners of its “Discharge Follow-Up Appointment Challenge.” Working with the Partnership for Patients, participants were challenged to create web-based tools that help patients schedule follow-up appointments after being discharged from a hospital stay. The winners were:
  • First place: MyHealthDIRECT, a web-based platform that allows patients and caregivers to search for, book and confirm appointments and includes reminder and transportation reservation functionality.
  • Second place: HePak, a tool that integrates appointment-making and reminder functions into its hospital, provider and patient portals.
  • Third place: mHealthCoach, a tool that provides calendar syncing and incorporates educational content and HHS data feeds.

Also announced was the Blue Button Mash-Up Challenge in which participants are challenged to build upon the Department of Veterans Affairs’ existing Blue Button feature and allow patients to download their health information and share it with healthcare providers, caregivers and others. The challenge requires the development of a tool that will help individuals to use their health information, combined with other types of information, such as cost data or comparative health data, to better understand their own health status and make more informed decisions regarding their healthcare. The submission period ends Sept. 5.