Open Health Data – alpha launch happy dance

[cross posted from https://cde.catapult.org.uk/%5D

We just launched the alpha of the CDEC Open Health Data Platform. It’s been an exciting process developing the platform so far, and we’re really pleased with the way the alpha site looks and the reactions it’s had. The platform in general is a really fun project: it’s motivated by the fact that there’s an enormous amount of interesting and valuable raw health data available, from the NHS and elsewhere, but that it’s relatively difficult for business and government to make use of that data without a good reusable technical base to help them build different views and services around it. 
 
It’s easy to see how that data holds a lot of economic and social value for so many parties. For example, public, private and third sector services providers want to understand existing need and provision in different areas, to know where to send resources; journalists and politicians want to understand what health issues are topical in their area; and of course medical suppliers want to understand prevalence of conditions, supply of resources, trends and patterns. The aim behind the platform is to help all these parties to get hold of that possible value, by making the raw data easier to use and reuse. 
 
The idea behind having a very early alpha, and of developing the site very visibly in public, is to get a minimal version out for discussion which will make sure it is developing towards what people need. The project itself is quite an unusual one, since CDEC aren’t the ‘true’ end users: the users are really the people who we hope will take and repurpose the platform code, and the people who’ll use the interactive front end either of our version or of the repurposed versions of the platform. This gives us a bit of a dilemma: it would be impossible, and pretty stupid, to try and build something which serves every potential need we can think of (there are a lot of different potential ways of looking at this data) so we have to choose some example cases to build functionality around. 
 
For the alpha launch, we looked at data relating to diabetes – prescriptions, prevalence, and other information. Diabetes is a good ‘example’ condition to hang development around, as it’s common, chronic, affected by multiple environmental, medical, and social factors, and expensive to manage – so there are strong economic incentives for lots of different players to make sense of diabetes data for lots of different purposes: both charities like Diabetes UK, health providers, and private sector providers who serve diabetes patients. 
 
We and CDEC are very happy with the way this first alpha version has come out, and have come up with a lot more questions based on the initial site. We’re also now looking to get feedback on what direction this should build in, and what functionality is important to users (both those who want to repurpose the code for themselves, and those who want to use the existing front end). If that’s you, drop us a line, or even better, raise an issue or fork the code on Github we positively want you to take it, use it, and make money or do other good stuff with this material. 
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