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Predict who will end up in the hospital: There's a $3 million algorithm for that

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Make a winning math program that can predict if people will get sick in the future? Get $3 million.

Imagine there's an algorithm that can predict if you'll get sick 15 years down the road.

Soon there might be a math equation that can predict just this. The algorithm just has to ask the right questions.

Did the patient have recent lab tests? Does the patient also have diabetes? Or high cholesterol? Is the person not taking his medications? All these factors (and more) would theoretically be plugged into an equation. The goal is to predict if the person will likely end up in the hospital in the near future.

The Heritage Provider Network wants to bring this kind of predictive health to the table. It announced the $3 million Heritage Health Prize. The competition officially launched today, April 4.

Using health records and claims data, HPN believes it's possible to predict the chance of hospitalization. The winning algorithm should be able to identify which patients will end up in the hospital.

The HPN hopes this algorithm will help lower the cost of hospitalization...especially the unnecessary cases. According to the American Hospital Association, 71 million people in the United States were hospitalized last year. But in 2006, more than $30 billion was spent on unnecessary cases. It's a resource and cost issue. Both can be better managed.

Recently, Jonathan Gluck from the Heritage Provider Network, called the current system a sick care system during a presentation. Watch Gluck talk about how the algorithm might help us move towards a predictive health care system.

Now that's one way to bring innovation into the health care system...and there might very well be an algorithm for that. Spending less on hospital costs, means more money for research and the development of treatments.

More than 100,000 data scientists will likely try for the prize, according to Computer World. The developers have two years to program the perfect algorithm and will have access to 700,000 (unidentified) patients' electronic health records.

Creativity can go a long way to bring innovation into the health care system. And in this case, there's a huge incentive to do so.

The startup company, called Kaggle, is organizing the competition. The company has already launched 16 data prediction competitions, Computer World reports.

Hat tip via Popular Science. Source: Heritage Health Prize

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech,, and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure