HHS CTO Todd Park on HealthData.gov, Text4Baby and open health data

The first chief technology officer of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Todd Park, has been working hard to make community health data as useful as weather data. If that vision for open government at HHS matures, the innovation released in the private sector could meet or exceed the billions of dollars unlocked by GPS or NOAA data. To see the first steps in that direction, look no further than the healthcare apps that have already gone online, like the integration of community health data into Bing search results.

Park shared the next step in opening up health data last month out in California, when he announced HealthData.gov at the San Francisco Healthcamp. When interviewed yesterday at the mHealth Summit in Washington, Park shared more details about HealthData.gov, which he says will launch in December. He also shared a new goal for text4baby yesterday, which has now grown to be the biggest mobile health platform in the United States: 1 million moms by 2012.

HealthData.gov will be a new part of Data.gov with a health data catalog, including a roster of new public and private applications using the data, said Park. The site will launch with a new tool, a “Health Indicator Warehouse” with over 2000 metrics for United States, state and county health. HealthData.gov will also host an online community dedicated to health data, which should allow practitioners, technologists and entrepreneurs to learn from one another. The site is the next step in the framework HHS has created for government to act as a platform through the Community Health Data Initiative. The next question will be whether these applications lead to better outcomes for citizens and businesses that expand, bringing on new workers. Measuring that meaningful outcome will require more time.

Insight on what’s next from Bill Gates: mHealth, mCommerce and robots

“People underestimate the amount of innovation going on,” said Bill Gates at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. today. “They assume tech remains the same.” Given the thousands of attendees walking around the floor to see the mobile technology on display, there will be more awareness of what’s happening by the end of the day. Those listening to Gates in person or online could take away a few more lessons as well.

First of all, the key applications in the mobile health world are those that are tied to better outcomes, said Gates. Metrics like the number of children dying is one such metric, he said, and could be mitigated by mobile apps that register every birth on a cellphone to track vaccine coverage. Tracking supply chain for medical supplies and online medical records also can lower key metrics like child mortality, said Gates. Highlights from Bill Gate’s keynote conversation with Dr. Kristin Tolle are embedded below:

“In general, the world underfunds research because the person who takes the risk doesn’t capture the full benefit,” said Gates. “Government comes in for things the market doesn’t work well on.” Some research and development simply won’t get funded otherwise, in the absence of a strong profit motive. That’s likely one reason the Gates Foundation has focused on malaria, a disease that big pharmaceutical companies haven’t put significant resources behind.

“As the world goes from 6 billion to 9 billion, all of that population growth is in urban slums,” said Gates. That context provides a target for innovation in mobile healthcare technology, particularly given the increasing penetration of cellphones. Improving mortality rates is also relevant to that burgeoning population, he reflected. “Within a decade of having better health outcomes, people decide to have less children,” said Gates. citing the research of Han Rosling. Rosling’s TED Talk is below:

What’s the medical challenge for the aid community to target? “Funding vaccines is so clear,” said Gates. Polio may not get eradicated because of a  lack of funding, he said, reflecting on “going begging” around the world to try to get the last $800 million dollars for vaccine.

What’s next? Where will innovation be happening and change how societies work? “Now the idea is to do digital transactions where you don’t use currency at all,” said Gates, pointing to M-PESA in Africa and the huge growth in mcommerce.

Those changes may not be proportional to the greatest needs, however, nor grounded in the traditional frame of ‘first world vs developing world.’ According to Gates, “middle income countries are where the most innovation in healthcare is going to happen.” The poorest countries need to address the true basic for survival before mhealth can make progress.

In richer countries, meaningful change is already happening because of mobile apps. Some of those innovations are just beginning to filter in. “What percentage of people have to be put in longterm care, versus have someone stop by?” asked Gates. Cellphones already enable new monitoring capabilities for seniors, children and caregivers; he anticipates better sensors and connectivity to change how we communicate and watch one another even further in the decades to come.

In a bid for the hearts and minds (and perhaps wallets) of the entrepreneurs present, Gates observed that conditions like obesity, diabetes and smoking cessation are good candidates for mobile health technology to address in rich countries.

He also appealed to officials making decisions on government policy and funding decisions.  “The degree that health and education go together – I don’t think that’s surprising,” he said. “We should invest in both.”

Asked to reflect upon where to invest next, Gates was clear: “If you just pick one thing, it’s got to be robots,” citing improvements in robotic mobility, dexterity, productivity and the growing needs of both an aging population and childcare.

He also reflected upon the future hinted at by the increasing use of big data tools to deliver insight. “Our ability to discover drugs using computation – that is changing,” he said. “In a ten to fifteen year period, it will be utterly different.”

Data BBQ features District tech entrepreneurs, passion and tasty open data.

Get off your index and build your Rolodex,” read the invite to last night’s Data BBQ in Washington, D.C.

And last night, that’s exactly what over a hundred people from around D.C.’s growing tech scene did, spilling out of the revamped officers of Insomniac Design in Bladgen Alley, near Mount Vernon Square.

The crowd was leavened with many attendees from the ongoing mHealth Summit 2010, manyof DC’s open data geeks and supporters and. Expert Labs’ Gina Trapani and Waxy.org’s Andy Baio came by from the FCC’s Open Developer Day to mix and mingle too. The highlight of the Data BBQ was the lightning talks, where attendees pitched projects, ideas, jobs or even spare rooms to the crowd. The talks are embedded below:

Many of the mHealth conferees no doubt know about the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge from the Department of Health and Human Services, where health data is being mashed up into new applications.

And, judging by the show of hands, many of the Data BBQ’ers had also heard about the World Bank’s Global Apps for Development Competition, which is looking to the development and practitioner communities to create innovative apps using World Bank data.

What might have been new to a few, at least, was the upcoming Apps for Army competition for the public, where the successful apps competition that Peter Corbett and iStrategy Labs helped the Army run will be rebooted for wider participation.

US CTO pitches open government, innovation and health IT to Silicon Valley

What is the federal chief technology officer up to out in Silicon Valley? From afar, however, it’s looks like federal CTO Aneesh Chopra is stirring up awareness about open government and entrepreneurship in the venture capital community in California. He’s also traveling with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CTO Todd Park to add his compatriot’s considerable enthusiasm for innovation in healthcare information technology (HIT). Chopra’s slides follow:

Following is a quick rundown of the websites and initiatives Chopra referenced in the presentation:

For a classic dispatch written by a great tech journalist, Wade Roush, make sure to read his interview with Aneesh Chopra on entrepreneurship, health IT, open government and “data as a policy lever.”

During the event, I picked up some tweets coming out of a “D.C.-to-Silicon Valley” event and curated them using the Storify tool. It proved to be a bit unstable – apps in beta are fun! – but you’ll find a “living version” of the story embedded in the post below.

How Socializing Data Built A Better Government Platform

Can social media, open government and an API lead to a better pill identification system? What about a collaborative effort between Big Pharma and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that could result in pictures of medications on labels for the first time?

As David Hale’s interview in my most recent article at Mashable showed, the power of social media, open data and innovation led to a better healthcare platform at the National Library of Medicine:

Every year, poison control centers get more than one million calls for pill identification. Each one of those calls costs nearly $50. Social software is helping biomedical researchers collaborate on better ways of identifying drugs. “Pillbox is a digital platform for communities to solve challenges related to pharmaceutical identification and reference,” says David Hale, the program manager. The National Library of Medicine’s mission is to gather, curate and distribute the world’s biomedical information, said Hale.

Pillbox is an open government initiative from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration that could transform how pharmaceuticals are labeled in the future. The interactive web application currently allows visitors to rapidly identify unknown solid medications, like tablets or capsules, based upon their shape, color and other markings. Pillbox remains a research and development project, so users should not be making clinical decisions just yet. Right now there are over 1,000 images of prescription drugs in the system, with many more to come in the next few months.

In the video below, Hale demonstrates the platform:

Hale will share more about new updates to Pillbox and how the healthcare community and developers partnering to restructure federal drug label data at the Gov 2.0 Summit next week in Washington on September 8th.

His last presentation, “Open Gov Ninja 101,” is embedded below: