Government's push to unleash health data 'transformative'

Since 2008, HealthCamp's worldwide gatherings have provided a unique venue for people to discuss issues and challenges facing the healthcare industry, as well as how to best to resolve those issues. Dubbed the healthcare "unconference," participants set the day's agenda in real time, allowing for more unfiltered, engaged discussions.

FierceHealthIT recently caught up with founder and Chief Instigator Mark Scrimshire in Washington, D.C., to ask him about the importance of HealthCamp and to get his thoughts on the state of health IT in the U.S. today.

FierceHealthIT: How did the HealthCamp movement initially get started?

Scrimshire: Back in 2008, I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco and ended up having lots of fascinating discussions with healthcare people about how we could use Web 2.0 solutions to address challenges in healthcare. I came away from the conference convinced that these were valuable discussions to continue and thought that if I didn't do something about it, who would?

I looked for a way to do that and came across the BarCamp movement and decided to host a HealthCamp in Maryland. HealthCamp has just grown from those humble beginnings. 

FHIT: Why should hospital and healthcare executives care about HealthCamp?

Scrimshire: The big advantage HealthCamp offers to any C-level executive in a healthcare organization is the opportunity to join in an open dialogue with people from inside and outside the healthcare community that are passionate about [their work]. The diversity of backgrounds that come to the event gives an unprecedented opportunity to look beyond the typical silo in which an organization operates.

If an executive wants to get an unfiltered look at the cutting edge of healthcare developments--and technologies that may not be healthcare centric but are being adopted by people to help them manage their health--then HealthCamp is the place to be. The open and supportive nature of the participants also creates an opportunity to learn about best practices that can be brought back to their own organizations.

FHIT: What do you think of the government's efforts to push health IT in the U.S. so far? Is it doing too much? Not enough?

Scrimshire: I think that the work that [HHS] is doing is great. [Todd] Park is a visionary that executes on ideas. The idea of unleashing health data and encouraging the entrepreneurial and developmental communities to make use of that data is transformative. This is just one part of the puzzle in transforming healthcare.

On the other side, I think we will start to see new business models emerge to deliver better healthcare. Some of that innovation is being driven out [by] the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It will take time to change because the industry is generally so intransigent about changing. However, the recession has probably done more to push change. We have seen employers buying down benefits, and soon we will see health insurance exchanges come into play.

These two factors give individuals more control over their healthcare and more visibility to the costs. This is what will really drive transformation--when we get fed up with not knowing the cost, not knowing what is covered, not knowing the quality and performance of the people providing service to us and not knowing the viable alternatives.