Patient data initiatives take center stage at Health Datapalooza

Liberation of patient data was underlying theme at this week's Health Data Initiative Forum--aka Health Datapalooza--in Washington, D.C. In addition to several discussions about the most effective ways of using patient data for the greater good of healthcare, the government made a handful of announcements ranging from new initiatives to challenges.

At a discussion on consumer engagement of health data use on Tuesday, for instance, Anne LeMaistre, Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Ascension Health in Austin, Texas, talked about her hospital system's efforts to engage diabetic patients by connecting their home glucometers to a Microsoft HealthVault personal health record. LeMaistre said that patients loved getting rid of the paper, while providers loved the access to more up-to-date patient information.

"Technology barriers are coming down," LeMaistre said. "Cultural barriers are the ones we need to work on now."

At that same discussion, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari announced a Blue Button Mash-Up Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. ONC, the coordinator said, will work in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs on the challenge, which will offer a total of $75,000 in prize money for the creation of a tool that can help patients to use their data to make better informed decisions about care.

The idea must build on the VA's existing Blue Button feature, which allows patients to download their health information and share it with doctors and caregivers.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the creation of a new Office of Information Products and Data Analytics (OIPDA) that will focus on improving access to and use of CMS's health data. The office will be in charge of managing CMS's Chronic Condition Warehouse and overseeing the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. OIPDA also will oversee the Blue Button initiative.

CMS also announced the creation of a Medicare Enrollment Dashboard, which will provide statistics on Medicare  enrollment, and a CMS Data Navigator--a web-based search tool aimed at improving transparency of CMS data by making it easier to locate.

To learn more:
- here's the Blue Button Mash-Up Challenge announcement
- here's the CMS announcement

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