Search for new health algorithms that could “change the world”

by Charles Wright on January 21, 2011

I was musing recently about the potential impact of Kaggle -the datamining competition site – on healthcare. A little later I discussed the potential with Kaggle founder Anthony Goldbloom and its chief data scientist, Jeremy Howard, over a cup of coffee. They’ve just announced that in April, they will be hosting the world’s biggest-ever datamining competition – the $3m Heritage Health Prize, in association with the Heritage Provider Network (HPN), to foster new approaches to the analysis of health data that “could change the world”.

More than 71 million individuals in the United States are admitted to hospitals each year, according to the latest survey from the American
Hospital Association. Studies have concluded that in 2006 well over $30 billion was spent on unnecessary hospital admissions. Each of
these unnecessary admissions took away one hospital bed from someone else who needed it more.

Is there a better way? Can we identify earlier those most at risk and ensure they get the treatment they need? [HPN] believes that the answer may be “yes” – but to do it will require harnessing the world’s top experts from many fields.

Heritage launched the $3 million Heritage Health Prize with one goal in mind: to develop a breakthrough algorithm that uses available patient data, including health records and claims data, to predict and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. Heritage believes that incentivized competition – one that includes the involvement of those with passionate minds that don’t know what can’t be done – is the best way to achieve the radical breakthroughs and innovations necessary to reform our health care system. Sponsoring this prize is simply one way that Heritage believes it can help solve a societal problem. Heritage is not an insurer and doesn’t stand to benefit directly by solving this problem – but Heritage is in the business of looking after the health of Americans and believes that corporations have a role in enabling change for the better.

A spokesman for Kaggle says the site “is immensely proud to be providing the platform for this competition, which we hope will result in those most in need getting faster and cheaper access to healthcare”.

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