Connecting Data to Our Health: Kaiser’s Code-A-Thon

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab, published on June 11, 2013]

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Mobility Lab’s Director Tom Fairchild served as a guest judge in Kaiser Permanente’s recent Code-a-Thon, a competition in which software developers from across the country traveled to the company’s state-of-the-art Center for Total Health in Washington D.C.

The developers worked on different apps envisioned under Kaiser Permanente’s just-launched application programming interface (API) program called Interchange. The apps were focused on connecting healthcare with lifestyle choices. Fairchild talked to the participants about Mobility Lab’s ongoing research on the correlation between transportation-related lifestyle choices and better health.

Half of the code-a-thon participants focused on using open location-based data to allow for mapping one’s health by finding, for example, the closest farmer’s market or nearby restaurants with heart-healthy menu options.

The other participants worked on apps that would incorporate personal health information from securely-accessed medical records and data imported from devices such as the FitBit to help individuals better manage their own health and fitness. For instance, one app being developed at the Code-a-Thon was dubbed iSnooze, which uses sleep-pattern data and lifestyle information to more accurately diagnose sleep-related problems, under the assumption that prescription sleep aids are overprescribed and widely abused.

The most exciting aspect of Interchange lies in its ability to merge Kaiser Permanente’s securely accessible health data with other open data sets from any number of sources such as transit agencies and Capital Bikeshare.

The possibilities for innovative linkages between health and transportation are enormous and will hopefully benefit consumers in the near future, and many developers at the Code-a-Thon seemed to be moving in that direction. The Code-a-Thon, as well as USDOT’s Data Palooza event, come on the heels of President Obama’s executive order opening federal government data that was previously inaccessible to the private sector. The purpose of Obama’s executive order is similar to Kaiser Permanente’s API: to spur private-sector innovations.

The top developers at the Code-a-Thon won prizes and may have their apps developed by Kaiser Permanente, which hopes to spur innovation by the private sector with the release of Interchange.

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Photos by M.V. Jantzen

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