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Gadi Ben-Yehuda Headshot

Gov 2.0 and Health Care: 3 Ways Data Can Lower Costs and Empower Citizens

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Every day, Americans are looking for ways to lower their health care costs and understand rules that govern their care. Gov 2.0 can help them.

Now, I've been to WebMD and even joined Revolution Health (alav hashalom), but I'm no doctor. I've never even played one on TV. But at the Gov 2.0 Summit taking place this week, real-life doctor Elliott Fisher will discuss how data can improve health care and reduce costs in a session titled, appropriately, "How Data Can Improve Health Care and Reduce Costs." I have yet to meet Dr. Fisher, but I'd like to offer three ways that government can help citizens bring down their costs and regain control over their health care.

I've tried to look at three separate agencies (the FDA, CDC, and HHS) and look at ways that the government can either provide data or amalgamate it and present it in ways that citizens would find useful.

1. Make the FDA Drug Database available for third-party applications, so consumers can easily see a picture of the drug and five key facts:
  1. Price
  2. Side effects
  3. Generic equivalents
  4. Generic equivalents' prices
  5. Contraindicated drugs
Unlike the current FDA app, this one could perhaps save consumers some money and will certainly let them know more about the drugs they are taking or have been advised to "ask their doctors about."

2. Establish hash tags for and monitor the spread of infections on Twitter. Now that Twitter is location-aware, the CDC should encourage institutions that have to report cases of, say, H1N1, simply to Tweet #H1N1 and allow their tweet to include their latitude and longitude. Sync that up with a Google Map and let anyone track the concentration of all the infections the CDC is tracking. They could let people know about the program through the CDC Facebook page. (And, please, this map helps no one, and don't even try going down this rabbit hole.)

3. Release updated prices that Medicare and Medicaid pay for routine procedures so that consumers can negotiate with their care providers for the same prices. Currently the department of Health and Human Services has data available about the prices Medicare and Medicaid pay in each state for a variety of hospital inpatient; ambulatory surgical centers; physician; and hospital outpatient procedures. The utility of the data is compromised, however, as prices for hospital inpatient procedures dates back to 2006, physician and hospital outpatient to 2007, and ambulatory surgical centers to 2008.

Oh, and here's a fourth idea: get whoever's in charge of the CDC's Facebook page to find counterparts at the FDA and HHS. Really, there's no reason that these two bands are the top search results for FDA. I don't think they're even American.