$100K app challenge aims to help patients find hospital quality data

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) just launched an app challenge to make it easier for consumers to find data on the quality of your hospital and its physicians.

Called the "Aligning Forces for Quality" challenge, RWJF is offering a $100,000 prize to app developers who can create an easy-to-use app that patients, family members and others can use to understand the data available through its Aligning Forces quality reports.

Over the past five years, RWJF has worked with a group of Aligning Forces communities to set up publicly available reports on local healthcare providers, including quality measures and safety statistics on everything from diabetes treatment to antibiotic use to child healthcare, RWJF officials say. It seems the reports aren't being accessed as much as they'd like.

"Choosing the right doctor or hospital is one of the most important healthcare decisions a consumer will make, yet many consumers don't know where they can find information to help inform their decisions and improve their communications with doctors," Michael Painter, senior program officer at RWJF says in a statement. "Using apps to make information more readily available has the power to transform healthcare."

Through the app challenge, RWJF officials say they hope to make those reports more "dynamic, interactive and consumer-friendly than when information is simply displayed on a website." Officials are asking for a commercial-grade decision-tree type app that helps patients make informed decisions about which facility or practitioner to use for particular therapies.

"The application should walk patients through the decision making process for accessing inpatient and outpatient health resources in much the same way that TurboTax guides users through the process of submitting a tax filing," RWJF's app challenge guidelines say.

Submissions must be turned in by Dec. 31, 2011, and after two phases of competition, the winners will be announced in June 2012. First prize is $100,000, second, $25,000 and third, $5,000.

To learn more:
- read the RWJF press release
- check out the RWJF app challenge description