Inside This Issue - News
Walgreens answers HHS call for innovation
June 27th, 2011
WASHINGTON – Companies dealing with health care data should intensify efforts and “move from a crawl to a sprint” to help improve the nation’s health outcomes and reduce costs, says Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Walgreen Co. is among health care companies helping to facilitate that process.
Earlier this month HHS and the Institute of Medicine (IoM) cohosted their second annual Health Data Initiative Forum focusing on encouraging the development of innovative applications and services that harness the power of data from HHS and other sources to help improve health and health care.
“Over the last few decades we’ve seen innovation lead to huge improvements in almost every area of our lives,” remarked Sebelius.“We’ve gone from waiting until a bank opened to make a deposit to 24-hour ATMs. We’ve gone from computers the size of a room that were operated by trained experts to devices thousands of times more powerful that can fit your pocket.
“But when it comes to health, the pace of innovation has been a crawl, not a sprint. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to find a good heart specialist, you had to ask your friends; if you were a hospital and wanted to compare the quality and cost of care in your area to another area, you were out of luck. Today, not much has changed.”
The forum included nearly a dozen announcements of major initiatives being launched using federally supplied health data. Among the announcements were public and private sponsorship of new “challenges” to develop data-powered solutions that improve health, including those issued by Walgreens, the Aetna Foundation, Sanofi and the National Cancer Institute.
At the forum Walgreens president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson and chief innovation officer Colin Watts announced the launch of the Walgreens 2011 Challenge: A New Approach to Patient Information Navigation, which asks teams of health care data developers to create an application that presents aggregated HHS data on specific health topics.
The challenge is sponsored by Walgreens as part of the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge as a way to supply Walgreens health care staff and patients with a tool for searching and learning about health-related topics. The Health 2.0 Developer Challenge was launched last year at a Community Health Data Initiative (CHDI) meeting at IoM, with support from HHS.
Walgreens hopes that the winning application will allow it to provide consumers with easy access to pharmacy, health and wellness information and data in homes and at store locations. The winning application should be intuitive and user-friendly and should allow users to sort and filter results. Health care staff and patients should be able to use the application to extract clinical trial information and federal and state data regarding specialists, hospitals and other pertinent health care information.
Submissions to Walgreens are due by August 15 and must use the iPad or other tablet platform, include a supported Web service and use three or more HHS data stores.
Walgreens will award the first-place winner $25,000, an opportunity to spend an hour with its chief information officer, and two free passes to the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco on September 26 and 27. Second prize will award $5,000, and third prize is $3,000.
“The Health Data Initiative Forum demonstrates our strong commitment to promoting innovative uses of data to advance health and health care in America,” said Sebelius. “This initiative is helping consumers take control of their own health and health care by putting the right information at their fingertips, helping doctors and hospitals deliver better and safer care, helping employers promote health and wellness, helping mayors and county commissioners make better-informed decisions that improve the health of communities.”
Sebelius pointed out challenges that HHS encounters in making better use of data.
“Our department collects an incredible amount of data, from public health data about the prevalence of disease to Medicare data about health care provider quality to data about ongoing clinical trials and much, much more,” she explained. “But until recently too much of this information was difficult or impossible to access, scattered across hundreds of websites or publications, published in formats that were hard to use, hidden behind pay walls and, in many cases, unknown to the public.”