Following the April 9 publication of 2012 Medicare Part B payment data on more than 880,000 physicians and other billing professionals, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is challenging software developers to make tools to help consumers better understand and use the data.

“Because this data exists in raw forms that require interpretation and context, to make an impact on the average consumer it must be presented in ways that they can understand,” according to an ONC notice on its new “Data Supporting Decisions Challenge” that includes monetary prizes totaling $35,000. ONC seeks new interactive data visualization tools “that communicate complex data from multiple sources in ways that support consumer decision making for value based healthcare.”

(See also: AMA Gives 9 Reasons for Caution on Using Medicare Physician Data)

In particular, ONC wants tools to assist consumers in potentially expensive decisions such as referrals or to proceed with a particular medical intervention or procedure. “The visualizations should be customizable by the user; for example, patients should be able to enter their own health and/or claims information, such as demographic features or clinical attributes, to support their decision making.”

ONC is most interested in tools giving insight into services and procedures offered in office and facility settings, as well as payments and charges. “Detailed geographic information system data can enhance analysis of physician payment and disbursement data from the national down to the hyper-local level. The combination of data from multiple sources, and quality measure data in particular, can be used to create tools providing deep insight into geographic variations in procedure costs, regional specializations in procedures and many other uses yet to be uncovered.”

The challenge is on a fast track with the submission period beginning April 14 and live demonstrations by finalists and winners announced during the Datapalooza conference in early June. The First place award is $20,000 with $10,000 for Second place and $5,000 for Third place. More information is available here.

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