Making U.S. community health data accessible and useful

Today the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are hosting an event called The Community Health Data Forum to highlight the power of transparency in health care. I was pleased to offer one of several technology demonstrations highlighting how health data can help us make better health decisions.

HHS has published useful data about communities, hospitals and nursing homes and made it available for download. As a demonstration project, we combined some of this information using Google Fusion Tables, a database service in the cloud that makes it easy to explore, visualize and share structured data. Using Fusion Tables we created a customized map to display information from the database. For example, you can see a map of "heart friendly" and "people friendly" hospitals, based on statistics from HHS:

It's important to note that the science behind measuring the quality of hospitals and health care in general is still evolving, so we can't make definitive conclusions from this data. However, this kind of transparency will lead to discussion, questions, and analysis which we hope will improve choices and outcomes. We encourage you to explore the new data from HHS, including visualizations like the one above, using our published table.