$100,000 Prize Offered For Healthcare Quality App - InformationWeek

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11/2/2011
08:54 AM
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$100,000 Prize Offered For Healthcare Quality App

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launches developer challenge for app to help consumers choose the best healthcare providers.

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced a $100,000 contest for a health IT application that will help consumers use published quality data to choose among physician groups and hospitals in 16 areas around the country.

These 16 communities--ranging in size from rural counties to metropolitan areas to whole states such as Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin--have all been involved in RWJF's Aligning Forces for Quality program since 2006. The 10-year, $300 million initiative focuses on improving the quality and reducing the cost of healthcare. An important facet of the program is the public reporting of data on the cost and quality of individual hospitals and medical practices (but not individual physicians).

Using measures vetted by local physicians, the communities--which include leading doctors, nurses, insurers, employers, and consumer advocates--have published the comparative data on their own websites. All hospitals in the 16 communities are participating, and information on at least half of the primary-care practices in each region has been available since 2009.

Based on claims and clinical data in various proportions, depending on the market, the information shows how well various providers do on different types of care. But RWJF felt that something was still missing, said Michael W. Painter, senior program officer for the foundation, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

[The Food and Drug Administration's proposal to regulate medical apps is raising concerns, for good reasons. Learn why: Mobile Medical Apps Meet The FDA, Part 2.]

"Consumers have to go to the website, look at the measures and somehow use that information in decision making, and it's hard to do. We're hoping with this challenge to get software developers to create applications that it will breathe life into this information. It's like using Turbo Tax--it walks you through a series of questions and customizes the information for you and educates you about the complex tax code. And at the end of it, you get a return. These applications ideally would walk people through a decision process with this information."

While RWJF doesn't know what the software developers will cook up, Painter said the foundation envisions apps that will help consumers choose providers that have helped patients similar to them achieve good outcomes. For example, a patient might enter information about himself and his condition into the application. If he had type 2 diabetes, he could see which ambulatory care physicians had the best track record with that condition.

"This goes beyond consumer friendly to changing the way people think about interacting with this information," Painter said. "We hope it will bring the information to life and facilitate decision making in ways that people haven't thought about."

The applications submitted by the contestants may be written for any kind of computer that is connected to the Web, he added. But apps for mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads are definitely welcome.

Because of the expense involved, RWJF does not plan to expand the Aligning Forces for Quality program to additional markets. But it will share the findings of researchers who have been studying the program with other interested parties. "The point is to show what can be done and take that learning across the country to other communities," said Painter.

In addition to the first place cash prize of $100,000, developers who enter the contest may win $25,000 as a second place prize, or $5,000 for coming in third. They also have an opportunity to sell their applications, not only to the RWJF communities, but also to the federally supported Beacon communities and charter value exchanges, Painter pointed out.

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, and the winners will be announced next June. More information about the contest is available here.

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Lisa Henderson
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Lisa Henderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2011 | 1:07:09 AM
re: $100,000 Prize Offered For Healthcare Quality App
They are having a webinar this Friday11/4 to discuss the data for the contest, which apparently is what the current contestants are clamoring for, based on a perusal of the current submissions. It seems to be a really worthwhile endeavor...an app to help people help their own health...I can't wait to see what they come up with because their sketches of intents look promising.

Lisa Henderson, InformationWeek Healthcare, contributing editor
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