Don’t forget the hot sauce! Washington DC’s Health 2.0 Code-a-thon

The hot sauce (view at

If there’s two things I love, it’s walking to anything and applying the best practices of other industries to health care.  Oh, and Health 2.0, of course.

So I walked to Georgetown to the Health 2.0 Code-a-thon and participated in a cool project that combines what’s being understood about human behavior in the economics world (where, I believe, human behavior is better understood than in the medical world) and leveraged one of the newest datasets made available,

The scene itself – people coming together from different disciplines with the need/desire to build a product by the end of the day. I wasn’t really expecting to stay 11 hours, but that’s what you realize when you look up at the clock a few minutes after you start….

The other industries part is the example provided by OPower, which compares electricity customers to higher-performing relevant peer groups in monthly statements, using social influence to change their behavior towards (hopefully) reduced peak energy use (they even call it “advanced customer engagement”). So they are getting results for electricity use, what’s the analogy for health care?

Our hypothesis was that a desired health behavior for all (walking) could be influenced both by (a) comparison with relevant peer groups and (b) linkage to a person’s own personal medical information.

(a) came from the physical activity indicator at, (b) came from, for the purposes of our challenge, medical record data provided by bluebutton, and the two were mashed together to provide information about the desired behavior, comparison to relevant peers, and reinforcement with data from the electronic medical record.

Most electronic health records don’t include a measure of physical activity, so this would require a person’s input for comparison. This is changing though, most notably at Kaiser Permanente, where exercise is now treated as a vital sign and assessed at every office visit in Southern California, thanks to the work of Bob Sallis, MD.

Photos below, thanks to @drytownlizzie and Health 2.0 for the leadership and coordination, teammates @raseman (corrected Twitter handle, 02/18/11), @avairs, Yair Rajwan, Heather O’Shea, @jess_jacobs, @MsWZ, @jzatzkin, and congratulations to the awesome team from Maya for their first place win! (We were second place…)

[miniflickr photoset_id=”72157626033808088″]Photos of/from Code-a-Thon[/miniflickr]


This is an amazing project. The other side of the patient peer groups would be to compare practitioners outcomes and relevant peer groups. I also would like to see the data from high performing patient groups be stud died to find out what lifestyle choices they were making so tha we could see what is working and possibly leverage that data to improve the Evidence based medicine process. In essence adding patient Choices to the mix of RCT data. It seems there is much value in the gray area data of lifestyle choice. Nice post


So glad this inspired you! I have to say one of the cool things about this whole thing is that the data that we used is generally available to all of the innovators who want to use it, and we just looked at one measure of many many. Do I see a Sun Devil code-a-thon coming?


Ted, hats off to you and the team. Awesome that this idea came in second. I'm so sorry I had to leave early. As I was riding my bike home, the app made me think so much about how we need to use more behavioral economics and psychology into how we design these health apps.


Totally agree and it was really cool to hear/see that what HHS is doing is attracting multiple disciplines to (a) check it out and (b) add what they know from what they do every day. A great metaphor for health care and all of the work you're doing to make it all…better,


Ted Eytan, MD