Some of the “Rock Stars” of Health Innovation at the “Health Datapalooza”, more formally known as the Health Data Initiative Forum III, have been in town this week for the June 5-6 event at the Washington, DC, Convention Center.

Special Guest Jon Bon Jovi, world-famous musician, appeared in connection with the Project REACH Mobile App Challenge. And a number of U.S. Government’s leading proponents of innovation were on the billing, not all of whom would have thought of themselves as rock stars before this event, including Todd Park, U.S. chief technology officer; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; W. Scott Gould, deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; as well as Mitch Kapor, Partner, Kapor Capitol and Bill Frist, physician and former U.S. Senate majority leader.

Gould in particular was there to talk about Project REACH – a Real-time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless (REACH). Simply put, the goal of Project REACH is to provide a free, broadly accessible app that produces real or near real-time information on where someone can find a bed, a place to eat, or seek medical services.

Jon Bon Jovi is also chairman of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, member of the White House Council for Community Solutions, and a Project REACH Challenge Partner. The winning app will debut at Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey.

The morning highlight yesterday was the $100,000 award for the best app for health consumers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Symcat, a symptom checker that analyzes patient records to tell you what patients like you actually had. It was an amazing demonstration and success story of a small group of 4 people that have only been working together for about four months.

Another highlight was the update from the Department of Health and Human Services by Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, deputy Secretary announcing five new developments:
  • Agency wide review of new data sets for release every six months
  • New data catalogue with twice the holdings
  • Update of web site
  • Support for health data innovator fellows
  • Extension of the Health Data Community to 5 local communities
The highlight for me was the Now and Next Breakout session where I actually got to engage in a dialogue with Todd Park, and Panelists George Thomas, Enterprise Architect, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and David Forrest, Lead Project Manager,
I asked Todd Park directly about his recommendation of the National Library of Medicine‘s APIs, that I had written about recently being difficult to use, and the need for a 4th “V” for Big Data (besides volume, velocity, and variety), namely value.

As I have noted in a recent article, the value component is needed to make intelligent use of data.

Park agreed, and spoke eloquently about the Health Datapaoolza not being so much about data and technology as about innovation and getting the brightest people working on this problem and creating a “people mashup” to produce results that benefited the American people.

He went on the praise the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, represented by Niall Brennan, Patrick Conway, and Marc Wynne, for setting up a new office to make CMS data and information a core function of their agency.

But Park’s point is one that often is lost in so many discussions about marshaling data: Namely, that real innovation comes from a mashup of great minds, not just a mashup of data and technology. His disruptive energy, his Health Datapalooza, and his willingness to dialogue with us are part of what made this latest Health Data Initiative Forum a refreshing model for unleashing the power of government data.