Health Datapalooza 2015: Interview with Director of Programs Sara Zellner

MHA@GW is excited to be attending Health Datapalooza 2015 this week, a national conference hosted by the Health Data Consortium dedicated to “liberating health data, and bringing together the companies, startups, academics, government agencies, and individuals with the newest and most innovative and effective uses of health data to improve patient outcomes.” To learn a little more about the themes and workshops that characterize the 2015 event, located here in Washington, D.C., we touched base with Health Data Consortium Director of Programs Sara Zellner.

How did you go about curating the 2015 Health Datapalooza keynote addresses and speakers, and how do you think this particular cohort will help communicate the major themes behind this year’s events?

Because health data is a topic that touches all stakeholders across the health care continuum, each year we invite keynote speakers across sectors — including government, technology and medicine — in an effort to provide different perspectives and facilitate cross-industry collaboration. This year we have a particularly compelling group of keynotes — from White House Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil to Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and journalist Steven Brill. We’re excited to hear their views on the promise of health data and its potential to transform patient care and outcomes. Health Datapalooza 2015’s keynote speakers will address not only why health data is important to changing care, but how it’s changing care and impacting big businesses, patients and government.

Since the 2014 conference, domestic and global health communities have grappled with historic public health crises like Ebola and measles; do you expect that these challenges will inform some of the conversations you expect to see take place this year, both among attendees and presenters? If so, how?

Absolutely. Massive, global public health challenges such as the spread of Ebola are exactly the types of international conversations that compel a greater discussion of how the sharing of timely health data can help. Presenters in our main stage panel, “How Leading Health Care Companies Are Powering Their Businesses with Big Data” and one of our workshops, “The Role of Social Media Data in Health Care: Driving Innovation, Education and Healthcare Improvement” have recently returned from West Africa and will discuss their experiences there with the Ebola epidemic.

The exciting thing about Health Datapalooza is that we’ll hear from all groups being represented — academia, startups, policymakers, patients, etc. — about how open health data can be (and is already) beneficial to them in the face of health challenges or crises.

Another public health issue here in the U.S. is related to climate change, and its connection to public health concerns, such as an increase in allergies. This is a topic of timely importance that requires greater access, understanding and utilization of health data. The exciting thing about Health Datapalooza is that we’ll hear from all groups being represented — academia, startups, policymakers, patients, etc. — about how open health data can be (and is already) beneficial to them in the face of health challenges or crises.

How will programming revisit the ongoing conversations regarding the intersection of data and health? Are there any new additions to the 2015 agenda that attendees should expect?

Building upon last year’s discussions, Health Datapalooza 2015 will go beyond addressing the reasons why health data is important to changing care by focusing on the ways it is and can be changing care and affecting big businesses, patients and government. Additionally, attendees will find new educational tracks that will help foster a dynamic cross-pollination of ideas and five new training workshops — making Health Datapalooza more interactive and educational for all.

Is there anything else attendees should know about Health Datapalooza 2015?

We are creating a dialogue around advancing the availability and responsible use of health data through the unique forum that is Health Datapalooza — but it’s the action that attendees then take year-round that advances our mission. We hope that attendees view Health Datapalooza as an opportunity to learn, network and take back key lessons to their communities so that they can then take action to influence the future of health data in a meaningful way, and also maintain the connections they’ve made at our event.

Still curious? See the full agenda and learn more about Health Datapalooza 2015 here, and check out our coverage of last year’s event here.