5A. Health Data Initiative
In March 2010, HHS took the first steps toward promoting the uses of HHS-developed data from surveys, administrative processes, and other sources and promoted its use to the public. Underpinning this initiative is the recognition that there are vast needs for information by consumers, health care providers, policy makers and others to guide decisionmaking in many aspects of health and health care. This effort was established a “health data ecosystem” in which data resources were integrated into electronic platforms aimed at consumer health, community health and health care users.
In June 2010, a conference was held with the Institute of Medicine to showcase more than 20 new applications that were developed to use HHS data and inform decision making. This sparked a major effort for data production, applications development, and uses. Across HHS, major efforts were committed to helping organize already existing data and tools with links to one common website. This effort to facilitate data transparency has yielded more than 230 datasets and tools that can now be found on a common website known as HealthData.gov. Healthdata.gov, the common site for identifying data resources, has many Web 2.0 features that enable users to see ratings and rankings and comments from other data users. A linkage to an “apps expo” provides interested parties with examples of how others have used the data.
HHS also unveiled an additional new resource known as the Health Indicators Warehouse (healthindicators.gov) with many new automated download features to support computer-to-computer linkages of data resources. In this warehouse are more than 1170 indicators of all sorts of health status indicators, administrative data, and others that are now being widely used by application developers, researchers, policy makers and others. Cumulatively, these new data resources are shining a light on major issues in health and health care – such as differences in quality of care, outcomes, and incidence of disease and conditions. This year, expanded efforts are being made to bring information on health and social services in various community resources into HealthData.gov as well. With the expansion of the focus from community level data to more broad and diverse sources, HHS now refers to these collective activities as the “Health Data Initiative.”
To further promote the use of health data, HHS has partnered with a number of non-governmental organizations to hold challenges and competitions to inspire new developers to create tools and resources that use HHS data. Additionally, events that bring data experts and technology developers together, called ‘code-a-thons’ have yielded new ideas and applications of health data. Over the last year, more than 30 of these events have been held and yielded an impressive array of technologies to further integrate uses of data into health and health care decision making.
In June 2011, the second annual Health Data Initiative Forum was held in conjunction with the Institute of Medicine. Over 75 new applications were submitted in response to the meeting sponsors’ solicitation, and nearly four dozen of the most promising new applications and services that have been developed using HHS data were showcased at the meeting. Additional efforts are now focused on use cases for how data can be used to address issues such as patient safety, obesity, regional differences in health outcomes, etc. The Health Data Initiative is beginning to engage a wide array of partnerships with foundations, philanthropy, private industry, health care delivery networks, academia, and state and local governments. This effort is continuing to promote the uses of data in a broad array of ways that creates value for the users.