HHS starts sharing health care data

Good, Microsoft, others introduce new health data applications

Health and Human Services Department officials and executives from Google, Microsoft and other technology companies today encouraged the public to explore and develop applications for the department’s newly released health data in its Community Health Data Initiative.

The program's goal is to make HHS health data freely available so software developers can create innovative applications and make it more useful for consumers and communities, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Institute of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg said.

“When information sits on the shelves of government offices, it is underperforming,” Sebelius said. “The data can help our communities determine where action is most needed and what approaches might be most helpful.”

As part of the department’s open-government plan, HHS officials introduced the community data program. They debuted an interim Web site that offers community health data and executives described several examples of successful applications using the community health data done by Google, General Electric, Ingenix, Microsoft and other companies.

Sebelius also announced a Health 2.0 Development Challenge contest to award prizes to the most innovative applications of the data and said a HHS Health Indicators Warehouse that will feature additional community health data would be operational by December.

The warehouse will include free access to new and available HHS data on national, state, regional, and county health performance on indicators such as rates of smoking, obesity and diabetes; access to healthy food; and use of health care services.

The department began working on the community health data program recently, and Google, Microsoft and the other companies have created new applications using the HHS community health and hospital data in the last 90 days.

For example, Dr. Roni Zeiger, chief medical strategist for Google, introduced the Google Data Fusion Tables mapping application that allows the public to examine hospitals in neighborhoods to find which have the lowest rate of deaths from heart attacks and which have the highest rates of patient satisfaction.

Microsoft launched Bing Health Maps, which uses HHS community health data viewable by county. The Ingenix application allows for comparisons of Medicare costs by region, among other features. Another Web-based application, Asthmapolis.com, allows asthma sufferers and researchers to track, manage and research asthma in their communities.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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