Jonathan Gluck, spokesman for the prize, explained the reason his boss is going to all this trouble: "You never know when you look at a problem how it's going to be solved. And having these different perspectives to think about it in different ways, we thought would lead to novel solutions."
The "getting people to think" part has succeeded, Gluck says, beyond their expectations. "We are ecstatic with the wide scope of individuals participating from around the world, from all walks of life." Even a hedge fund manager is part of a team.
Gluck says the winning algorithm will become the property of the Heritage Provider Network.
"We'd originally intended the algorithm would be publicly available," he explains. "But… we had people raise the question of whether insurance companies might use this dataset to raise insurance premiums.
"So to avoid that issue—we're doctors, not an insurance company, and it was never our intention to do that—we'll keep the algorithm proprietary so we can make sure it's shared only with entities that are going to use it for appropriate purposes."
It's hard to get people to understand, Gluck says, that a true predictive model would actually lower, not raise, insurance rates, because it helps providers know how preventive care would benefit certain patients "to keep them from going to the hospital."