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Developers Challenged to Create Apps from Medicare Payment Data

April 10, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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In light of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releasing Medicare claims payment data this week, the Health Data Consortium (HDC), a non-profit advocacy and membership organization, is challenging developers to create consumer-focused apps from the dataset.

Working with the HDC is the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The agencies will dole out prizes totaling $35,000 at the Health Datapalooza national conference on June 3 in Washington, D.C.

“This year teams will be using CMS Medicare Fee-for-Service Provider Utilization and Payment Data, data that has never seen the light of day publicly,” Bryan Sivak, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chief Technology Officer, said in a statement.  “The availability of this de-identified data represents another piece of the puzzle that enables us to see a clearer picture of the health care system; and when combined with other health data used, developers and entrepreneurs create applications and information tools that provide value to consumers in making more informed discussions about their healthcare choices.”

 The data contains information for over 880,000 distinct health care providers. Thus far, it has been somewhat controversial. Medical advocacy organizations like the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have come out in protest of the data.

Others say that the data can only help consumers make better healthcare choices. Scott Decker, president, HealthSparq, a Portland, Ore.-based vendor that provides pricing data transparency software, says that the data shows the importance of full transparency in helping consumers get a more complete picture of medical costs.

“For consumers to really get a handle on costs, calculators that provide information from the moment that a patient starts care--at the time of diagnosis--until the time when treatment is finished, is essential. Consumer use of these tools can help moderate costs for everyone, as patients consider both quality and costs when selecting a doctor,” Decker said.

The app developer challenge includes two phases. Phase I will request written proposals describing the use case, approach and data sources for visualizations. From there, finalists will build out visualization tools. At Health Datapalooza on June 2, finalists will demo live their tool for the judging panel. The next day, the winners will be announced.

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