Health Challenges & the Open Government Initiative

Congratulations again to all teams who participated in Hacking Medicine Round 2! A lot of chatter on our blog has been about the private sector and business issues faced by groups and organizations trying to hack medicine and healthcare. In addition to the private sector issues, activities in the health care industry are heavily regulated by both federal and state initiatives and regulations, influencing the delivery of health care services in the United States and how you and I receive health care in this country.

Many of you may have seen the emergence of various corporate-sponsored challenges and prizes to stimulate innovation in health care (i.e. Data Design Diabetes, sponsored by sanofi-aventis). Beyond the business plan competitions and startup accelerators out there, there are a plethora of government-sponsored health challenges for which teams interested in hacking health care can compete. The Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative, issued by former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag as part of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government passed on January 21, 2009, authorized Federal agencies to use “challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government.”

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of Openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. – President Obama, 01/21/09

The Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government set forth the following steps for executive agencies and departments to meet in order to meet the goals of a more open government, which include the three tenets of Transparency, Participation and Collaboration. These steps are:

1. Publish government information online.

2. Improve the quality of Government information.

3. Create and institutionalize a Culture of Open Government.

4. Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government.

Step 3 is the portion of the Directive that catalyzed the beginnings of government-sponsored challenges for federal agencies, as it gave the OMB between 45 and 90 days to establish a working group to provide a forum to share best practices on formulating and sharing innovative ideas promoting openness and transparency in government, as well as designing a framework for incentive-based challenges to promote innovation in the United States.

The end result is this: Challenge.gov, an online platform which compiles the list of all federally-sponsored challenges in all areas, from science & technology to energy solutions to defense and education. There are 53 (count ’em, 53!) government-sponsored challenges in the Health category and although some of them are closed and winners announced, there are still a few that are still open for entry. Check it out, and good luck!

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