Times Uses Open Data, Finds Hospital Costs with “Enormous Markups”


In an article yesterday, the New York Times wrote about the NYS Department of Health’s newest dataset, hospital billing charges for medical procedures:

As part of an effort to make health care pricing more transparent, the state is naming hospitals and listing their median charges and costs for 1,400 conditions and procedures from 2009 to 2011. In 2011, prices ranged from the $8 bill at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, N.Y., for treating a case of gastritis (cost: $2), to a $2.8 million charge for a blood disorder case at University Hospital of Brooklyn that cost it $918,462.

The phrase “dataset” isn’t used once in this article, nor is “open data” – if you set up a Google Alert for open data success stories, this wouldn’t show up on your radar. But this is open data from one of the premier open data initiatives in the United States, the NYS Department of Health. In June of this year, Commissioner Nirav Shah won the Health Data Liberator award at the national Health Datapalooza.  This is a great example of why.

More broadly, this is what open data is supposed to do. It’s not just about grassroots developers building tools, admirable as that is; it’s about a major media outlet having the resources to explain how our government (and health care system) works. This helps everyone, patients and policymakers alike, make smarter decisions.