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Data sharing is a noble goal, but it requires one critical – and often overlooked – element to transform healthcare, Health and Human Services (HHS) Chief Technology Officer Bruce Greenstein told a conference audience at HIMSS18 in Las Vegas.
“[People] is the piece that is going to be the catalyst,” Greenstein said. “The data is the enabler; people and taking action, that is what really matters.”
Greenstein acknowledged that the Obama administration kick-started efforts to encourage widespread healthcare data sharing, as Healthcare IT News reports. Now, he said, HHS is taking the next steps by moving from making data accessible to encouraging the healthcare industry to use that data. A key part of this process, according to Greenstein, is partnering with the private sector to develop actionable solutions to problems.
Mona Siddiqui, chief data officer at HHS, told the audience, “I think there was a cultural transformation that happened in the last administration and how we viewed data and the relationship HHS [has] with external consumers.”
To that end, HHS hosted a code-a-thon last December to tackle the nation’s costly and growing opioid epidemic. Three $10,000 prizes were offered to entrants to submit potential solutions to the crisis, while developers were offered the use of open data to craft their products.
“It was a fantastic way to see how HHS data could lead to solutions but also a great visual for HHS leadership and staff to see how the data we talk about in an esoteric way could be used in a really practical way,” Siddiqui said.
One obstacle to data sharing, Greenstein said, is a misguided sense of institutional ownership, even at the departmental level.
“As government bureaucrats think about these data sets they manage they start to view it as their data,” Greenstein said. “The American people own the data that is in HHS, not a bureaucrat that has been there for 20 years and thinks that they have the control because other people might misuse it. People outside of our building will do much better things with it than we are doing with it alone right now.”
Bottom line: There’s no data sharing if no one is willing to share data.