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$3 Million Prize Offered to Solve Hospital Admissions Puzzle

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 30, 2010

If the judges decide the algorithm is accurate, the contestants will be provided with a final test dataset, to which the algorithm will once again be applied.  "If the algorithm correctly predicts the hospitalization of the required percentage of the test dataset patients, with the correct specificity, and their algorithm is the first to do so, that team will win the prize," Merkin says.

Merkin is not unknown in California healthcare. He serves on the advisory board for the Assembly Subcommittee on Health, chairs the Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Plan Integrity and sits on the board of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Task Force for Medical and Mental Health and is California Association of Physician Groups board member.

He founded the non-profit Heritage Medical Research Institute, which specializes in quality and outcomes, and funded a stem cell research project at the Broad Institute.

Merkin's prize has support from some big names in healthcare. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt was quoted in a press release about the prize saying: "We need innovative thinking to solve one of the biggest dilemmas of our time – ever-rising health care costs. The Health Prize is an example of what the private sector is willing to do to encourage that type of thinking."

Who knows whether Merkin's idea will spawn a new technology, or whether a winning solution can apply beyond a patient population as well. If it works in Los Angeles, will it also work in Miami or Denver?

It's certainly an interesting idea, with great potential benefit for patients and providers too.

To find more information about the prize, click here.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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9 comments on "$3 Million Prize Offered to Solve Hospital Admissions Puzzle"


Rebecca Mitchell (2/6/2011 at 12:53 PM)
@Roy: I couldn't agree more, as a doctor I don't know how I could possibly make admission decisions without a patient's age and weight, they lead to entirely different differentials for what could be happening. (ie, skinny child likely has gastric reflux, whereas obese sixty year old is having a heart attack). Also this problem is already being addressed but not funded elsewhere, as discussed by Atul Gawande recently: http://bit.ly/g3B4Wr Also 3 mill is a paltry sum compared to what this is worth-how about instead providing start up capitol to a few of the best and the brightest to tackle the question? (ie Y Combinator)

Heidi Kirsch (2/5/2011 at 2:26 PM)
One of the most important variables that COULD be utilized to account for the dynamic "human component" is missing from consideration. It's so simplistically obvious, I'm surprised it has been overlooked in any of the efforts I can reseach for reference. I plan to pursue exploration of this through other channels.

Quinn (2/2/2011 at 1:21 PM)
The real question is whether "human doctors" are more accurate? Apparently, they are terribly inaccurate. So if doctors are only 50% correct in evaluating a patient for admission, wouldn't 80% be better? Overworked physicians are no good at accuracy.