App developers take HHS, IOM up on their data-mining offer

Just two months ago, HHS and the Institute of Medicine started the Community Health Data Initiative to encourage IT developers to mine vast storehouses of publicly available health data. Some already are taking advantage of the offer to create iPhone apps for consumers.

"We're seeing a very exciting explosion in the number of small, personal devices as well as sensor networks and mobile phone apps that are dedicated to structuring, collecting and aggregating quality healthcare data," David Van Sickle, president and CEO of start-up iPhone app developer Reciprocal Sciences, tells Network World. "We're moving to more of a participatory community health data collection environment, where patients will be contributing into this data and not only benefiting from it."

Reciprocal Sciences is the company behind Asthmapolis, a GPS device that connects with an inhaler to record time and location whenever asthma patients use their inhalers. The device transmits the readings to each user's physician and makes aggregate data available to researchers and public-health officials. A companion iPhone app helps patients track when and where they took a dose of asthma medication.

"What we're aiming to do is expand the amount of surveillance data that we have about asthma by an order of magnitude," Van Sickle explains. "Even at the national and state level, the focus has primarily been on the really small number of asthma attacks that cause emergency room visits. There are many more asthma attacks that result in doctors' office visits, missed school and missed work. We're trying to capture some of that data."

The Network World story also looks at MedWatcher, which alerts patients to new FDA warnings and drug recalls, and iTriage, a consumer app for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android platforms that helps people understand the severity of symptoms and locate medical help. HHS highlighted all three apps when it launched the Community Health Data Initiative.

For greater detail:
- check out this Network World story