Health 2.0 DC: Passion and Execution at Scale

Leave it to others to point out this city’s shortcomings. The Washington, DC, I know draws in the best & brightest, engages in debate, and gets things done.

Tim O’Reilly recently said that within the federal government he has found “an intense passion among people trying to make change.”  Todd Park, CTO of HHS, expanded on that theme yesterday as he described his federal co-workers as just as smart, just as creative, and just as entrepreneurial as anyone he worked with in the business world.

We didn’t need to look much further than David Hale and his presentation of Pillbox, a partnership between the National Library of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration. I caught his act at the Gov 2.0 Expo (see his slides from that event) but this presentation was even sharper:

1) Identify a need: Poison Control Centers receive 1.1 million calls about pill identification each year, at a cost of $50 a pop.

2) Gather a team: pharmacists, regulatory experts, computer scientists, database administrators.

3) Open up: you/your agency are the content experts; citizens are the context experts.

4) Get out of the way: drive traffic to your data, not your website.

Indu Subaiya moderated the next panel, which I can only describe as extraordinary: an extraordinary cancer patient-researcher-activist (Josh Sommer) + an extraordinary cancer drug developer-philanthropist-innovator (Patrick Soon-Shiong) + an extraordinary geneticist-informaticist-strategist from the National Cancer Institute (Ken Buetow). To be perfectly honest, I was so enthralled by their exchange that I didn’t take notes – anyone have some to share in the comments?

Meantime, I do have some suggested reading. I first met Josh and Ken at a two-day Institute of Medicine (IOM) event last October which has now yielded a book, A Foundation for Evidence-Driven Practice: A Rapid Learning System for Cancer Care (free PDF).

Until the video from Health 2.0 DC is posted, please console yourself with this highlight reel from the IOM event’s patient panel Q&A.  Listen for this quote: “The key, one thing that’s needed…is transparent data. It’ll drive the cost of care down and the quality up…” – John Mendelsohn, president of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Susannah Fox is the associate director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. She blogs regularly at e-patients.net.

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