$3m prize offer for algorithm to predict illness

A US health insurance provider is offering $3 million prize to whoever can come up with an algorithm to predict when people are going to be ill.

California-based Heritage Provider Network wants the formula so that it can predict maladies before they happen, enabling it to take pre-emptive action and prevent the risk of costly hospital stays.

The company announced this week it was offering the bounty to any developer who could deliver a "breakthrough algorithm that uses available patient data, including health records and claims data, to predict and prevent unnecessary hospitalisations."

Entrants will be given access to 'anonymous' patient data on outpatient visits, previous hospitalisations, prescriptions and lab tests - calling to mind the warning issued this week by a prominent US lawyer about how 'anonymous' any anonymous data can really be.

HPN says the winning algorithm must be able to "identify patients who are at risk for hospital admissions" - though we can't help but wonder if that isn't to avoid offering them cover in the first place.

HPN says the competition it will be accepting entries for at least two years.