Health Care Challenge combines patient empowerment and data crunching

I looked over the five applications requested by the Health Care Challenge
launched last week. This challenge was set up by the organizers of the
Health 2.0 Conference along
with the Department of Health and Human Services and other partners
(including O’Reilly Media).
Two unifying threads tie together all the challenges, indirectly
showing the way the health care field is heading.

The first thread is involving the patients in their own
— sometimes collaboratively. The health care field has come
to realize that as we pick off and solve the obvious problems that
surgery or drugs can take care of, and as the population’s general health
and hygiene increase, diseases are getting harder to deal with. The
patient has to be responsible for his or her own well-being.

This is fairly clear in problems such as high blood pressure and
obesity, but applies even to conditions that are immediately treatable
by health care professionals. Take surgery, for instance. It would
seem the ultimate occasion for passivity on the part of the patient,
but every surgery requires a lengthy recovery. If the patient fails to
follow orders or doesn’t understand the need to report a complication,
she could end up worse than she started.

The second thread is collecting and sharing data. Sometimes
this involves existing standards for electronic storage, but many
vendors are creating their own APIs and data structures to fill the
gap left by these standards — especially to record patient activity, as
part the previous thread involving the patients.

Together, these threads take health out of specialized, clinical
settings and integrate it into everyday routines — the way true health
has always been attained.

Take a look at the five challenges and see whether you’d like to try
your hand at them. More challenges will hopefully be added.

Real-Time Patient-Driven Data Challenge
, by Practice Fusion

There has been a lot of talk about health care providers giving
patients access to patient data in the hands of the provider–most
recently in the final meaningful use rules, covered in recent blogs on
the Radar site by me
and by Brian
. But what about using electronic systems to let patients
report data to their doctors?

That’s the goal of this challenge. Practice Fusion here is showcasing
an API that allows data to be set in and retrieved from their web
service for physicians. They are challenging programmers to develop
apps that make it easy for patients to input real-time data about
exercise, heart rate, etc.–perhaps collecting that data directly from
devices, including GPS systems, instead of requiring the patient to
type it in. Programmers have to provide their own authentication
system for patients.

Improving Health Together
, by Keas

The challenge is to produce a text messaging application, using the
Keas RESTful API, that pushes reminders to participants. The app can
remind them to take medication, give feedback on their exercise,
etc. Somewhat in the mode of PatientsLikeMe, an app might
allow users to post their data and compare it to others.

The Keas API is quite rich–providing control flow, for instance–and
includes calls and data tables manipulating common information of
medical interest. You can report height, weight, cholesterol level,
medications taken, etc., create a care plan to deal with such issues
as weight and exercise, and create your own categories of information.

Move Your App! Developer Challenge
, by “>Snaptic and Hope Lab

The challenge is a mobile app, based on Snaptics’s RESTful API, that
encourages people to pick up their pace–something that makes them
want to dance or run or do some other form of movement for fun–and
then record data about that movement for medical use. Snaptic provides
APIs for several languages–including the iPhone’s Objective-C and
Android’s Java–but seems to offer a much less detailed, more high-level set
of calls than Keas.

Why-Health ?!?!
, by Whyville

The challenge is a game or graphical display of health data for
Whyville’s audience of children aged 9 to 15.

The Living Record: Rethinking Medical Record Documentation, by the
Szollosi Healthcare Innovation Program

The challenge is an application than can document the course of a
patient’s condition or treatment: a hospital stay, for instance, or a
series of visits to different health care providers. Most data about
patients, currently, is broken up into the reports of individual
visits by a doctor or nurse. A fundamental requirement for the app is
to accept data from multiple sources and combine it all accurately.


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