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.