$3 Million Health Puzzler Draws to a Close

Cheryl Clark, April 4, 2013

"When you think about it, a three-day stay in Southern California can cost $12,000. And I can give you tons of preventive care, avoid the hospitalization, and the system will still come out way ahead," Gluck says.

Entrants had access to a lot, but not all information on the Heritage claims database. They could see, for example, how many times a patient had been to a primary care doctor or specialist. They could also see the enrollee's sex, ranges for age and zip codes, how many days the patients had spent in a hospital in recent years, and their comorbidities, as well as some information on prescription usage.

Their weight, race, socioeconomic status, educational level, occupation and employment data were not provided, nor were the names of their providers.

Some teams tried to increase their odds by submitting multiple—in one case as many as 670—entries with only minor variations among them, a strategy called "overfitting."

Mansour Sharabiani, MD, a member of a two-person team called "Almata," which shows up as the top contender on the accuracy leaderboard, e-mailed and called me from London where he is a research epidemiologist and biomedical scientist with the Imperial College, specializing in predictions of mortality from heart attacks.

He submitted 352 entries, thinking his contributions might "lead to improvement of quality of care," but also because of the "fascinating aspect… to participate in a world class competition that had drawn top scientists and Nobel Prize winners as well as important players in the industry."

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