MedRed, a Washington, D.C.-based healthcare software company, and BT, a UK-based telecommunications company, launched the health cloud Tuesday with the blessing of the federal government. The White House Office of Science and Technology invited MedRed and BT to present the MedRed BT Health Cloud (MBHC) at a big-data event Tuesday in Washington, D.C., in a move signifying the federal government's recognition of the importance of open data in healthcare.
The MBHC data was taken from the UK through the UK National Healthcare Service, as well as Wales and some of Scotland.
"There's definitely a gap between where the industry wants to be in terms of access to data and where we are," said Will Smith, CEO of MedRed. "With anything like this, in order for things to advance, we have to show the benefits of allowing people to liberate data. There needs to be a dialogue with the federal government to liberate more data."
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The data includes clinical data, demographics, education and income, providing context within an overall picture of a patient's health.
MBHC is another example of the use of non-U.S. data for healthcare data projects. Merck recently launched a partnership with Israeli health system Maccabi, for access to their de-identified data. The advantage of non-U.S. data is that it tends to provide a longitudinal look at a patient's lifespan because patients typically stay with one health system for their entire lifetime.
"People are using foreign data because it's available," Smith said. "The U.K. made some gutsy decisions about data liberation. There's political risk associated and they have a more tolerant climate over there."
Pharmaceutical companies and universities are already using a beta version of MBHC to help develop new drugs, identify new indications for existing therapies, and correlate outcomes. It can also be used to build virtual cohorts for rare conditions. MedRed and BT will charge for access to MBHC going forward.
"The challenge isn't only in finding the data," said Neal Stine, principal consultant at BT. "It's in bringing disparate data sources together to provide an overall picture of a patient's health."