HHS Launches Community Health Data Initiative - InformationWeek

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HHS Launches Community Health Data Initiative

IT companies, researchers, patients, and others will gain access to federal health information through an online data warehouse.

The effort to combine health data with technology took another leap forward with the launch of the Community Health Data Initiative, giving the public and private sectors greater online access to government health data.

Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Institute of Medicine president Harvey Fineberg launched the initiative Wednesday at the Community Health Data Forum held at the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine in Washington D.C.

Under the initiative, agencies within HHS, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will share data online with technology companies, researchers, health advocates, the media, and others. The information can be used to create new datasets, compare data models, and provide richer actionable information that could have a wide impact on public health policy as well as personal health choices.

The Community Health Data Forum highlighted pilot projects conducted by technology companies during the past three months. These companies incorporated data from HHS with Web applications, mobile phone applications, social media, and other cutting-edge information technologies to create new or improved applications.

According to Sebelius, HHS has a wealth of health-related data, such as information on smoking, obesity rates, access to healthy food, utilization of medical services, hospital quality performance, and patient satisfaction.

She also gave examples of how the information can be used, such as a man with heart disease who can find out which local hospital has the lowest incidence of healthcare-associated infections, or a woman with a family history of breast cancer who can look at the cancer rates in her area and discover whether or not she lives in a cancer cluster.

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