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Having Data Isn't Enough: It’s About Using Data to Improve Performance

Earlier this week, Phil Kalin and I had the pleasure of attending Health Datapalooza IV in Washington D.C. The event is the brain child of Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States (what an incredibly cool job title!). The conference brought together many of the brightest minds in the country who are working to solve the health care challenges we face today by releasing health care data, or as Todd Park put it, “Data Liberacion!”. Just four years ago, this event was a meeting of 46 people in a small conference room in DC. These visionaries understood how the release of health care data could change the way we deliver health care in this country and committed to expanding the availability and uses of health care data for public good. This year, the event had over 2000 attendees including IT experts, health care providers, government agencies and policy institutes.

Katherine Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to releasing more Medicare data in the future to get information in the hands of people who can effect change on the health care system. Providing patients with information to make informed decisions about their health and providing physicians with meaningful data on how to better care for their patients is a critical first step in the evolution of our health care system. “Big Data” is here to stay but having data alone is not enough. There is a plethora of data available; we must now turn this data into knowledge.

Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and a key note speaker at the conference said that “Data makes the invisible visible.” This is absolutely true but simply making someone aware of something does not mean they will take action. Many companies and presenters at in attendance understood this “chasm” in the data to knowledge equation and are providing services to help use the data to effect changes in the health care system. The winner of the Diabetes Challenge in the Apps development area was a company called “Freckle” who developed an App to help diabetics called “Connect and Coach”. The App connects a patient with support resources to help them make better and more informed decisions. It connects them to registered dieticians, pharmacists and even counselors who can help them when they need it most…when they are shopping at the grocery store. Freckle won a $100,000 grant to help them further develop the App. They won not because they were able to provide patients with data; they won because they provided patients with knowledge and resources to use this knowledge to make better decisions.

CIVHC serves as one of seven regional “Health Data Affiliates” in support of the organization which sponsors the Datapalooza. This role fits in CIVHC’s mission to serve as a catalyst for change in Colorado and as the administrator of the Colorado All Payer Claims Database. The APCD already has claims information on over two million covered lives and nearly four years of data for the majority of fully-insured commercial covered lives and Medicaid, with Medicare soon to come. The APCD data can be an incredibly powerful tool to help achieve Triple Aim goals of better health, better care and lower costs. CIVHC’s goal is to provide consumers with cost and quality “knowledge” so they can make more informed decisions about the care they choose. The December 2013 roll out of the consumer-focused reports will be a first step toward patient engagement. Similarly, CIVHC is committed to providing knowledge to providers so that they may analyze their care delivery in a way that was never possible before.

It’s not just about the data. Even at an event called Health Datapalooza, it is clear that it is knowledge, not just data that will guide the health care system of the future.

About the Author: Bob Kershner is CIVHC's Director of Health System Payment Strategies. Contact him at

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