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Liberating Data to Transform Health Care New York’s Open Data Experience

Erika G. Martin, PhD, MPH1; Natalie Helbig, PhD, MPA2; Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH3,4
[+] Author Affiliations
1Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government–State University of New York and Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany-State University of New York, Albany
2Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany-State University of New York, Albany
3Office of the Commissioner, New York State Department of Health, Albany
4now with Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena, California
JAMA. 2014;311(24):2481-2482. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4610.
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The health community relies on governmental survey, surveillance, and administrative data to track epidemiologic trends, identify risk factors, and study the health care delivery system. Since 2009, a quiet “open data” revolution has occurred. Catalyzed by President Obama’s open government directive, federal, state, and local governments are releasing deidentified data meeting 4 “open” criteria: public accessibility, availability in multiple formats, free of charge, and unlimited use and distribution rights.1 As of February 2014, HealthData.gov, the federal health data repository, has more than 1000 data sets, and Health Data NY, New York’s health data site, has 48 data sets with supporting charts and maps. Data range from health interview surveys to administrative transactions. The implicit logic is that making governmental data readily available will improve government transparency; increase opportunities for research, mobile health application development, and data-driven quality improvement; and make health-related information more accessible. Together, these activities have the potential to improve health care quality, reduce costs, facilitate population health planning and monitoring, and empower health care consumers to make better choices and live healthier lives.

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