Team from NORC Takes Top Health Analytics Prize at Health Datapalooza

  • Annual event brings together more than 2,000 stakeholders to
    discuss how best to put health data to work to improve patient outcomes
  • Contestants demonstrate value of integrated data in managing
    chronic disease

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Winners of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Data Challenge, announced today at
Health Datapalooza, highlight the power of integrated datasets to
improve treatment decisions for difficult-to-treat, chronic conditions
such as rheumatoid arthritis. Participants in the challenge developed
analytic methods health care practitioners could implement at the point
of care.

Using de-identified integrated health care data provided by Optum, an
information and technology-enabled health services business, challenge
contestants worked to create algorithms to predict clinical response to
rheumatoid arthritis management, such as which patients would need
additional care provider support to successfully manage their condition.
The first challenge of its kind, the Rheumatoid Arthritis Data Challenge
drew on both private (non-governmental) de-identified administrative
claims data and de-identified clinical data from electronic medical
records (EMRs).

“The purpose of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Data Challenge highlighted
creative ways new integrated datasets to can be used to improve the
critical support care providers offer patients who are dealing with one
of the most disabling types of arthritis,” said Paul Wallace, senior
scholar in residence at AcademyHealth.

Winners of the Rheumatoid Arthritis Data Challenge, sponsored by Optum,
AcademyHealth and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

  • First place: NORC team, led by Shun Zhang
  • Second place: Pragmatics team, led by Jared Spigner
  • Third place: Evolent team, led by Shantanu Phatakwala

Health claims databases have long been used to understand aspects of the
health care system, but, having been designed for transactional needs
like billing, these databases leave out meaningful information about why
certain health care decisions have been made. Bringing in electronic
medical records can help fill in the blanks for researchers by combining
what clinical treatment was provided with the reasoning behind that

“This integrated data holds enormous promise in helping care providers,
health plans and life sciences companies understand unmet needs and
opportunities in the health care system,” said Curt Medeiros, president,
Life Sciences, Optum. “By linking the ‘what’ and ‘why’ together, this
single dataset can help drive meaningfully better decision-making not
only for populations, but also at the individual patient level.”

Nine teams were selected as finalists for the competition after
submitting proposals outlining their approach and their predictive
models. Submissions were evaluated on a technical level as well as the
ease with which the results could be easily communicated to care
providers, health plans and pharmacists. The judging panel was composed
of experts with clinical, data analytics, informatics, and patient
experience and included:

Margo Edmunds, Chair; Vice President of Evidence Generation and
Translation and Academy Health; Kathleen Kimmel, American Nursing
Informatics Fellow at the Office of the National Coordinator; Juergen
Klenk, Principal at Deloitte Consulting, LLC; Shari Ling, Deputy Chief
Medical Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and
Carolyn Petersen, Senior Editors,

“The winners of this challenge have shown how data presented in an
accessible way to decision makers can inspire innovation in health care
delivery and help inform critical decisions made at the point of care,”
said Greg Downing, Executive Director for Innovation, U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services.

About AcademyHealth

AcademyHealth is a leading national organization serving the fields of
health services and policy research and the professionals who produce
and use this important work. Together with our members, we offer
programs and services that support the development and use of rigorous,
relevant and timely evidence to increase the quality, accessibility, and
value of health care, to reduce disparities, and to improve health. A
trusted broker of information, AcademyHealth brings stakeholders
together to address the current and future needs of an evolving health
system, inform health policy, and translate evidence into action.

About Optum

Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services
business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for
everyone. With more than 100,000 people worldwide, Optum delivers
intelligent, integrated solutions that help to modernize the health
system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH). For more information, visit

About Health Datapalooza

Health Datapalooza is a national conference focused on liberating health
data, and bringing together the companies, startups, academics,
government agencies, and individuals with the newest and most innovative
and effective uses of health data to improve patient outcomes.

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