A new program is providing research teams with $750,000 in funding and access to rich health data. In doing so, we're hoping to create opportunities for researchers to use this data to inform policy and improve systems.
Many of us track health data without even thinking about it. With our step counters, fitness tracker apps, and “smart” watches, we collect thousands of points of data about ourselves—data we hope to use to make us healthier and more fit (or motivate ourselves to work harder). Now think about all the data health care providers and insurance companies track. That data, if put together and de-identified to protect privacy, could help researchers spot health trends in certain geographic areas. That data could help researchers see if there are linkages between people with chronic conditions and what type of health plans they choose.
Now, imagine you know about a library of health data, but it’s locked in a room that is in a building that costs money to enter, requires legal negotiation, and is not organized for researchers to use.
For many researchers, this analogy is more real than you think. Many valuable health datasets are actually this elusive. Proprietary datasets may be hard to obtain due to cost, or have technical/systems requirements that make it difficult for researchers to access and actually use.