Health Datapalooza introduces new health data and tools

The Federal Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Monday unveiled new health data and tools for the health IT industry at the 2014 Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C.

In conjunction with the event serving the open government movement in the health sector, HHS released its first annual update to Medicare hospital charge data, which compares the costs of similar inpatient or outpatient services.

With the expanded data, HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also released new tools for Medicare payment transparency, like new interactive dashboards for the CMS Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse.

“These public data resources provide a better understanding of Medicare utilization, the burden of chronic conditions among beneficiaries and the implications for our health care system and how this varies by where beneficiaries are located,” said Bryan Sivak, HHS chief technology officer, in a statement. “This information can be used to improve care coordination and health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries nationwide, and we are looking forward to seeing what the community will do with these releases.”


United States CTO Todd Park, during an impassioned speech in front of nearly 2,000 attendees at this year’s event, announced a new dataset under HHS’ Federal Drug Administration. Called openFDA, the new initiative offers “high value FDA data sets through an open API,” Park said. With it, developers and researchers can wield the massive datasets from the FDA to build apps and other products to make sense of the information.

To begin with, FDA will introduce openFDA as a pilot program featuring millions of reports of drug adverse events and medication errors that have been submitted  from 2004 to 2013.

“Through this new and novel approach to data organization, these reports will be available in their entirety so that software developers can build tools to help signal potential safety information, derive meaningful insights and get information to consumers and health care professionals in a timely manner,” said Taha Kass-Hout, FDA’s chief health informatics officer.

“OpenFDA offers a scalable platform that can be easily searched and queried across many distinct datasets, can be easily redeployed or altered to fit a variety of purposes and provides an innovative public data search and analytics solution,” Taha Kass-Hout said.

Tools like these are of vital importance in the health IT industry, said Park, whose speech was built around advocating data liberation and “machine-readable goodness.”


“Consumers should be able to access their data,” the U.S. CTO said. “Secure online access to their data is a right under [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act].”

And with the number of datasets constantly increasing, Park said he’s extremely optimistic about the potential to make healthcare in the U.S. a more sound institution.

“There’s never been a better time to be an innovator and entrepreneur at the intersection of data and health,” Park said. “You all in this room represent 2,000 reasons to be optimistic about U.S. healthcare.”

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