With the rapid increase in available Open Data on health and healthcare, new companies are launching to put the data to work. According to a report on NPR earlier this week, venture capitalists have invested $2 billion in digital health startups so far this year. The Health Datapalooza two weeks ago, which I wrote about yesterday, showcased many of them, in different stages of development from beta or even pre-beta to fully functional. Several of these companies are doing well by doing good – by putting public data to use, they’re likely to fulfill a public need (a pattern we’ve also see in the Open Data 500 companies we’re studying at the GovLab). Here are 10 examples from the Health Datapalooza event.
Accordion Health: Like many startups, Accordion is focused on health care costs. The company plans to use open data to help families estimate their healthcare costs and optimally find the best care at the best price. The challenge is to account for differences between patients by analyzing millions, or hundreds of millions of data points, and much of the data they will eventually need is not yet publicly available. More Open Data will make companies like this more viable.
Biodigital: This company produces what may be the coolest health website to look at – a voluminous library of 3D anatomical models drawn from the NIH “Digital Human” data, with National Library of Medicine text to explain it. It’s like the old “Visible Man/Woman” models made real, or the Bodies exhibit without the creepiness factor.
One company’s motto: Everybody should know what stuff costs in health care
Clear Health Costs: Founded by health activist Jeanne Pinder, this company bills itself as “your source for health-care prices.” As the back of Jeanne’s business card says, their motto is “Free the knowledge. Everybody should know what stuff costs in health care.” The company uses pricing surveys on a few dozen common procedures; Medicare data like a new hospital cost database that was launched during the Datapalooza; and crowdsourced data on healthcare prices gathered from volunteers. The ultimate goal: Move from cost alone to provide quality metrics too.
Healthy Communities Institute: This company uses 50 state and federal data sources to help community leaders take on their core challenges: “pinpointing at-risk populations and areas of need, implementing programs proven to affect change, creating efficiencies by partnering with internal and external groups, then tracking and reporting your results in a transparent way to all your stakeholders.”
JEN Associates: Their specialty is health data analytics, using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other sources. JEN’s work has applications that range from informing health policy to helping with individual healthcare decisions.
Karmadata: As NPR described it, Karmadata “is founded on the idea that software engineers can find ways to use big data to save the government or large companies money — and that such organizations will share some of their savings” with the company. Open data on cost and care let Karmadata figure out how to streamline healthcare for their business clients.
Building a business by helping companies streamline healthcare
MarkLogic: Like many companies in our Open Data 500 study, MarkLogic’s role is to make open government data more useful to businesses and to government agencies themselves. The company has developed an advanced database structure (technically called a NoSQL database) for defense and intelligence agencies, and has built the Healthcare.gov platform.
Privacy Analytics: This Canadian company works with the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and others to help make their data available for public use. They take on the challenge of anonymizing datasets – removing personal and private information – while retaining enough detail to make the data useful for analysis. With increasing interest in open health data, and growing concern about privacy protection at the same time, this kind of work will become more and more important.
Purple Binder: This app fills an important public need: It matches patients with community services that can help keep them healthy. The company’s research team, which has a background in social work, takes in federal, state, and local data and uses it to produce new, accessible Open Data for consumers to use. The app helps individuals locate food pantries, homeless shelters, and other services that represent a large public investment but are often hard to find. As founder Joseph Flesh said at the Datapalooza, “We’re working toward putting community and health on the same page” by making connections between healthcare services and social services.
Wellpath: This isn’t a business yet, but an experiment by Arcadia Healthcare Solutions. The innovators at Arcadia decided to see what they could do with new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help individuals manage their own health. The result, Wellpath, is a creative visualization tool that’s effective and engaging to use. It’s still in the demo stage but could turn into an interesting and useful business.
- Joel Gurin, Founder and Editor, OpenDataNow.com