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$3 Million Health Puzzler Draws to a Close

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 4, 2013

The contest's rules require the winning formula to identify the actual days of hospitalization that were required for 115,000 anonymized Southern California health plan enrollees from about 70,000 of their patient records for each year. The accuracy threshold score must be .40.

Believe me, I was told by some of the contestants, this is a really tough thing to do. And by deadline, partial scores reveal that no one got there.

"They set the bar too high," says Chip Lynch, a data consultant in Kentucky whose team, "ChipMonkey," is in 84th place.

There are some hints at who might have an edge, though. A leaderboard shows partial accuracy scores for each team, based on a 30% portion of the test claims database. But there is no clear winner and there may not be.

If no one wins, the team in first place gets only $500,000, and there will be no $3 million prize.

The contest was announced in December, 2010 by Richard Merkin, MD, Heritage's president and CEO, who officially launched it two years ago today. Entrants had to qualify for the big prize by getting a certain percentage right by last October 4.

For privacy reasons, the three years of real claims data were downloaded in a de-identified, sanitized version of the actual claims database provided by the contest's sponsor, the Heritage Provider Network. HPN is an ACO-like physician group based near Los Angeles with 700,000 covered lives in eight Southern California counties.

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