New ONC, Health 2.0 Developer Challenges Offer Cash Awards for Medical Apps

ONC and conference organizer Health 2.0 are awarding prizes to winning developers who can design applications that monitor heart conditions and cull data on population health.

Conference organizer Health 2.0 and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have launched two new developer challenges for health care: "One in a Million Hearts" and "PopHealth Tools Development."

The challenges are part of the Investing in Innovation (i2) program, which was formed under the American Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010. The act authorizes federal agencies to create challenges to further innovation, Wil Yu, special assistant for innovations and research at ONC, told eWEEK. NASA and the Defense Department have formed similar challenges.

ONC plans to run 30 challenges over the next two years, Yu said. He hopes to bring collaboration among developers and medical students.

"The development communities will be new sources of creative thought in the health care space," Yu said.

With i2, the Obama administration aims to use technology to bring better outcomes from health care and allow patients to self-manage their health.

"The i2 program is a revolutionary initiative that is fundamentally transforming the way the federal government spurs innovation in the U.S. health care system," Indu Subaiya, co-chair of Health 2.0, said in a statement.

Founded in 2007, Health 2.0 is an organizer of conferences highlighting health care IT innovations.

"One in a Million Hearts" calls on developers to build an application for patients to use to manage cardiovascular disease. The application would allow patients to monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"The user provides information, and the application gives them answers," Dr. Jean-Luc Neptune, senior vice president of Health 2.0, told eWEEK.

The application challenge is connected to the Million Hearts Campaign, which is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association (AHA).

From data that users input, patients receive related information from the AHA and CDC Million Hearts Websites. As a multidisciplinary challenge, "One in a Million Hearts" will involve public and private organizations that examine heart health, Neptune said.

The deadline for "One in a Million Hearts" submissions is Dec. 31. The winner will receive $50,000, with prizes totaling $75,000.

For the "PopHealth Tools Development" challenge, developers will draw on the functionality and datasets of ONC's open-source software service called PopHealth, which automates health care providers' reporting of meaningful use Stage 1 compliance for electronic health records (EHRs).

Challenge organizers hope that developers will produce PopHealth applications that boost patient safety and quality of care while providing a view of population health data for physicians.

Winning developers will be able to integrate patient data with the PopHealth system and provide ease of use. The winner of the "PopHealth Tools Development" challenge will receive $75,000, and prizes will total $100,000.

The deadline for the "PopHealth Tools Development" challenge is Feb. 3. The submission period opened for the two latest challenges on Oct. 3.

Future challenges in the i2 program will address health care delivery for areas such as childhood health and fitness, Yu said. ONC will also want the applications to improve communications between physicians and patients and integrate with the existing health care system, he said.

In addition, Health 2.0 plans to hold "codathons" in which developers, designers, researchers and patients come together for one to two days to develop and hack applications, Neptune said.