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Understanding The Value In Medicare's Physician Payment Data Dump

Apr 14, 2014, 9:24 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

New Jersey Patient Care

A 35-year battle is over and the taxpayers have won: We have the right to know how much physicians receive in Medicare dollars in exchange for providing our care. But now that the Centers for Medicare and Medicare government has released data on $77 billion in Medicare Part B payments to providers during 2012, what do we really know—or have—that we didn’t have previously? Information alone isn’t knowledge or, for that matter, insight.

For consumers, the slew of raw data ultimately may be useful if it can be packaged into applications that help them compare the way physicians practice—as the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology now proposes in a newly announced challenge. Private payers, such as insurers, may also find the Medicare data useful, as they can the information to better understand the practice patterns of providers they include in their networks.

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County Health Rankings: Five Key Elements of The Picture of Health

Mar 28, 2014, 10:16 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Behind the County Health Rankings: What makes a county healthy or unhealthy?
Skip Rope

Paint a portrait of a healthy county, and you’d show the features that contribute to good health: high incomes and levels of education; access to health care; plentiful healthy food, and ample places to exercise.   

Paint a portrait of an unhealthy county, and the palette becomes darker: higher rates of joblessness; more children in poverty; high rates of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity; and more people living in sub-par housing that they may struggle to afford. 

Those, in fact, are the real portraits emerging from the 2014 County Health Rankings, newly released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

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A New Way of Looking at Health

Feb 18, 2014, 3:58 PM, Posted by Andrea Ducas, Thomas Goetz

Putting outbreaks of disease into context “Putting outbreaks of disease into context” via VizHealth.org. The VizHealth site and the associated content are available under GNU Lesser General Public License version 3.0 (LGPL-3.0) and Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States licenses.

It’s not always easy to think in statistics.

While that statement might seem obvious, applying that knowledge when it comes to health and health care is anything but.

Think, for example, about your last visit to the doctor. (Doctors, put on your patient hats and bear with us.) In the first couple of minutes, you (we hope) had your blood pressure, weight, and other vital signs checked. You might have also talked about changes you could make—like exercising more or quitting smoking—and how they might decrease your risk of developing a chronic disease or help you live longer.

As a patient, all of this information is valuable, but it is not often meaningful or actionable: what does a systolic blood pressure of 175 actually mean? Exercising regularly might bring my risk for diabetes down, but by how much? And what does that difference translate to for me?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions, but up until recently there hasn’t been much clarity at all when it comes to how to communicate those answers effectively. That’s why we’re so excited to announce the launch of our newest project, Visualizing Health.

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And the Winner is … Streetlights, for Applying Big Data to Community Health

Jan 15, 2014, 12:41 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Cropped Streetlight project

Big data, the buzzword of choice these days in information technology, holds the promise of transforming health care as programmers and policy-makers figure out how to mine trillions of ones and zeros for information about the best (and worst) health practices, disease and lifestyle trends, interconnections, and insights. The problem is, where to start? To jump start the process, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joined in a Knight News Challenge: Health and issued its own call to developers to come up with innovative ways to combine public health and health care data, with a $50,000 prize to the best idea.

The results are in. When the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the winners of its News Challenge for ideas focused on unlocking the power of health data on January 15—you can see the list here—we also announced the winner of our companion prize for the best entries who combined public health data with data from health care to improve the health of communities. Our first place winner is the Streetlights Project from Chicago.

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Knight Foundation News Challenge: Looking for a Few Great Data-Leveraging Ideas

Sep 9, 2013, 11:59 AM, Posted by Culture of Health Blog Team

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On August 19, we announced a new $100,000 prize as part of the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which seeks innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities. The RWJF award is for those entrants who combine public health data with other types of population data to improve the health of communities. The Knight Foundation has committed $2 million to the contest as well.

The entries phase opened this week, and, as of this writing, 34 entries have already been submitted! We asked Paul Tarini, senior program officer for the Pioneer Portfolio, and Anne Weiss, senior program officer and team director of the Quality/Equality team, to reflect on the 105 ideas shared during the initial inspiration phase:

Paul commented:

“I liked the idea about linking health and housing data to improve the provision of social services, health services and housing support to people who are homeless. I also liked the vision for CHEER from Miami-Dade County, which is trying to link kids’ education and health data to improve outcomes for children and inform policy. Similarly comes an idea from Virginia to link datasets from the Health Department on birth issues, early childhood health conditions, and maternal health conditions to social service data and educational outcomes.

My question to everyone who submitted ideas during the inspiration phase: Can you actually get the data you’re interested in using? And, how will you make the data actionable?”

Anne adds:

“I have to say that a lot of what I saw wasn’t exactly what I expected. I saw apps and technology that used ONE source of data. There were a number that did combine data, but I couldn’t get a very specific sense of what data they’d combined and how it would be used.

The ones that excited me, if I read them right, were the ones about combining data on grocery store purchasing with primary care data, as well as the idea related to Trenton public transit.These seemed to me to be fresh, to address social determinants of health, and to leverage the power of different types of data. What I especially liked about these is that they have some interested, committed partners at the table who want the project to succeed, and they’ve got at least an early notion of specifics—what they will do and how they’ll do it.”

Be sure to keep an eye on the Knight News Challenge page to see the ideas being submitted—and if YOU have a bright idea you’d like to submit, be sure to do it soon. The challenge closes on Sept. 17; that’s just 11 days away!

Move Over, Richard Kiley. Here’s Why We Want to Combine Public Health Data with Health Care Data

Aug 19, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

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We’re announcing today a new $100,000 prize as part of the Knight Foundation’s latest News Challenge, which seeks innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities. The RWJF award is for those entrants who combine public health data with data from health care to improve the health of communities. The Knight Foundation itself has committed $2 million to the contest, as well.

The reason we want to combine public health data with health care data is because of the potential the combined data has to drive real improvements and innovation. When we were discussing this, one of my colleagues broke out with “To dream the impossible dream.” While he couldn’t match Kiley’s sonorous baritone, he did capture the ambition in the song.

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Control Health Data, Don't Drown in It

Jun 6, 2013, 7:26 PM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Data: It's a flood, and we run the danger of drowning in it. Even more unsettling, says RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, "a good portion of that flood of information is about our health, yet we have few tools to control or even decipher this most personal of data."

Writing in her latest post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey suggests that all of that data should be helping us—we just need to get a handle on it.

RWJF has focused on just that goal, having funded development of tools and technologies to manage medical information since the mid-2000s, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey writes. Our latest initiative is a $120,000 contest to encourage technology developers to create the best way to help consumers make sense of a huge database of hospital prices published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey concludes:

I believe such information management projects can be as or more transformative for an individual’s well-being than a new drug or surgical technique. Hopefully, their advent means we are entering an era of high tech tools where big data, far from drowning us, will help us manage our health in ways we never could before."

Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey is one of about 300 LinkedIn Influencers.

A Big Week for Big Health Data

Jun 5, 2013, 4:30 PM, Posted by Beth Toner

Health Datapalooza Graphic

It’s been a great week to be a self-proclaimed “health data geek.” Here at the Foundation, we announced the launching of the Health Data Exploration Project at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (housed at the University of California-San Diego). The project will explore how to bring individuals and companies who collect day-to-day health data (via smart phones and other tools) together with health researchers to uncover insights into personal and population health. You can read more about this project on RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas.

We also announced the $120,000 RWJF Hospital Price Transparency Challenge, which asks applicants to create data visualizations and applications to help people compare what different hospitals charge.

Finally, a number of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation staff came together at the fourth Health Datapalooza—the annual event put together by the Health Data Consortium, of which RWJF is a founding sponsor. The conference is a forum that features the newest and most innovative and effective uses of health data by companies, startups, academics, government agencies and individuals. Want to learn more about what went on there? Feel free to read our “Dispatches From Datapalooza,” starting here.

Want to learn more about health data?