May the Best Algorithm Win…

Amid a larger effort to use medical data to improve health care, one company is trying something new: offering $3 million in prize money for the algorithm that can best predict when people are likely to be sent to the hospital.

The algorithm contest, the largest of its kind so far, is part of a trend toward using such prizes to help find the best answers to complicated data-analysis questions.

Data-mining competitions have been around for a while–most notably the $1 million Netflix Inc. prize awarded in 2009 for a model to better predict what movies people would like. But the $3 million health prize, which is sponsored by California managed-care company Heritage Provider Network Inc., raises the stakes. And the start-up handling the competition, Kaggle Pty. Ltd., is aiming to build a business by conducting even more.

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