Crowdsourcing solutions for healthcare industry – Kaggle and the $3M Heritage Health Prize

Heritage launched the $3 million Heritage Health Prize with one goal in mind: to develop a breakthrough algorithm that uses available patient data, including health records and claims data, to predict and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. Heritage believes that incentivized competition – one that includes the involvement of those with passionate minds that don’t know what can’t be done – is the best way to achieve the radical breakthroughs and innovations necessary to reform our health care system. Sponsoring this prize is simply one way that Heritage believes it can help solve a societal problem. Heritage is not an insurer and doesn’t stand to benefit directly by solving this problem – but Heritage is in the business of looking after the health of Americans and believes that corporations have a role in enabling change for the better.

This has the potential of catalyzing big breakthroughs in healthcare analytics. At too many healthcare clients have I seen Informatics departments stuck in operational reporting instead of the higher-value analytics work that they were probably originally recruited for. Sure, every client is different, but a common experience in healthcare consulting is that data is 1) hard to get, 2) hard to interpret, 3) hard to put to use. Health insurers have hard enough time managing their databases and data warehouses given limited IT budgets and qualified resources, let alone do significant value-add or R&D work in effectively mining their membership health and claims data. Other industries are having problem managing and drawing insights from “big data,” but it is especially difficult for healthcare due to HIPAA privacy and other government regulations.

So, the fact that the Heritage provider network has partnered with Kaggle to create an analytics competition is great news, indeed! Finally medical data is available for data scientists and other analytics wizards to comb through, innovate, and perhaps come up with true out-of-the-box thinking on this problem: patient identification and member-level targeting to truly reduce cost (and not just lipservice/buzzwords to put on vendors’ latest care management platform marketing collateral). IT and Informatics/Business Intelligence departments within healthcare companies are too busy doing “business as usual” and “maintenance” projects… so crowdsourcing “anonymous” health data to scientists and data experts just makes sense. I hope to see more of these types of competitions within the healthcare space in the near future.

I have signed up for the competition; looking forward to getting knee-deep in the member data, and getting a real-world handle on the types of challenges that Informatics departments must deal with on a daily basis.

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