The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this spring released for public use huge batches of Medicare hospital inpatient and outpatient cost data to help consumers better compare hospital prices. Now comes a new effort to make the data more usable.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is sponsoring a $120,000 challenge to software developers to improve consumer understanding and use of all that data that shows a wide range of prices across more than 3,000 hospitals for 100 common inpatient procedures.

“The RWJF Hospital Price Transparency Challenge is designed to further disseminate the use of the CMS hospital data,” the foundation notes in an announcement. “The competition consists of two components--one for creating visualizations of the data, and another for developing consumer applications and tools.” The bottom line, says senior program officer Katherine Hempstead, is to transform the data into intuitive and actionable tools. More information on the challenge is available here.

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