If you’re a regular reader of Govfresh or the O’Reilly Radar, you know how the chief technology officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Todd Park ,is focused on unleashing the power of open data to improve health. If you aren’t familiar with this story, go read Simon Owen’s excellent feature article that explores his work on revolutionizing the healthcare industry. Part of unlocking innovation through open health data has been a relentless promotion and evangelization of the data that HHS has to venture capitalists, the healthcare industry and developers. It was in that context that Park visited New York’s Hacks and Hackers meetup today. The video of the meeting is embedded below, including a lengthy question and answer period at the end.
NYC Hacks and Hackers co-organizer Chrys Wu was kind enough to ask my questions, posed over Twitter. Here were the answers I pulled out from the video above:
How much data has been released? Park: “A ton.” He pointed to HealthData.gov as a scorecard and said that HHS isn’t just releasing brand new data. They’re “also making existing data truly accessible or usable,” he said. They’re taking “stuff that’s in a book or website and turning it into machine readable data or an API.”
What formats? Park: Lots and lots of different formats. “Some people put spreadsheets online, other people actually create open APIs and open services,” he said. “We’re trying to migrate people as much towards open API as possible.”
Impact to date? “The best quantification that I can articulate is the Health data-palooza,” he said. “50 companies and nonprofits updated and deployed new versions of their platforms and services. The data already helping millions of Americans in all kinds of ways.”
Park emphasized that it’s still quite early for the project, at only 18 months into this. He also emphasized that the work isn’t just about data: it’s about how and where it’s used. “Data by itself isn’t useful. You don’t go and download data and slather data on yourself and get healed,” he said. “Data is useful when it’s integrated with other stuff that does useful jobs for doctors, patients and consumers.”