Clayton State University Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Bram Boroson has branched out again. Known on campus as the “man for all seasons,” Boroson has extended his role from physicist to award-winning journalist, mathematician, philosopher, and now to data analyst.
On Apr. 4 2011, Boroson began participation in a two-year competition, held by Heritage Provider Network in California, entitled the Heritage Health Prize. The president and CEO of Heritage Provider Network, Dr. Richard Merkin, implemented this competition in hopes of making Americans more healthy and the American health care system more efficient.
“The contest took a lot of work over a long time. Approaches to ‘Big Data’ are of growing importance in many fields. I learned a tremendous amount during the competition,” states Boroson.
Aspiring to fix a dilemma familiar to most health care executives, Merkin decided to award $3 million to anyone who could build the algorithm that best predicts which patients will be hospitalized and for how many days over the course of a year.
Boroson, operating solely on his own, placed 82 out of 1659 teams, of which most were comprised of several members. The winner, along with the top 10, will be announced on June 3, 2013.
“Considering many who entered the competition had experience with the health care field and training in statistical analysis, I think my placement in the top 5 percent was really good,” comments Boroson, “In the very last week I moved up 295 places in the public ranking… I was learning right up to the end.”
The competition was based on a given data set, created by Heritage, composed of three years of anonymized, real patient information. Because real data was used in these data sets, Heritage already knew who would get hospitalized and could run a live “leader board,” ranking teams as they refined their algorithms.
Deviating from traditional contracting with a data company for private results, Merkin created the competition and award. The Heritage Health Prize brought alternative forms of expertise to bear on tough questions, breaking down research silos. Offering a prize also tends to be cheaper than contract spending.