Can a New Approach to a Healthcare Claims Database Help Control Costs?

SEP 28

As congressmen and stakeholders across the country continue to debate the best methods for quality improvement and cost containment in the U.S. healthcare system, four of the nation’s largest health insurers have come together to provide access to data that has the potential to significantly bend the cost curve.

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A long awaited announcement came last week from  AetnaHumana, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth Group  revealing that they will be providing access to over 5 billion de-identified claims from over 5,000 U.S. hospitals totaling $1 trillion of healthcare costs incurred since 2000. This data will be made available to researchers and distinguished healthcare economists via the newly formed nonprofit group, Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI).

According to the HCCI web site, its mission is to promote independent research and analysis on the causes of rising US health spending, to provide policy makers, consumers, and researchers with better, more transparent information on what is driving health care costs, to help ensure that, over time, the nation is able to get greater value from its health spending.

Last week I spoke with Dr. Stephen T. Parente, PhD., Professor in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and member of the governing board of HCCI. He described the multi-stage approach of the HCCI which includes collecting and aggregating data from the participating private insurers and establishing a database for entities interested in getting a handle on health care costs and utilization.  The HCCI is also designing “rules of the road” related to research protocols, access and review..

Until now, claims data has been limited to federally provided data on Medicare. But with over half of healthcare expenditures coming from private pay insurers, this restricted view hasn’t been broad enough to draw meaningful conclusions.   As its content evolves, the HCCI will publish a bi-annual scorecard to help researchers identify trending information at levels of detail rarely (if ever) seen before.

We’re actively working with healthcare innovators, many of which are working toward the same healthcare cost-saving goal,, and thought it would be useful to list our view of where  we predict the HCCI could (in the near term) positively impact payers, providers and patients related to healthcare cost and quality:

  • Develop evidence-based care recommendations and best practices (Providers and patients)
  • Design multi-payer quality improvement strategies and evaluate their effectiveness (Payers and patients)
  • Understand key bottlenecks along the care continuum where patients spend the most time and dollars (Payers and patients)
  • Determine specific diseases, conditions and treatments that are driving the largest cost trends (Payers and patients)
  • Identify the most cost-effective providers and medical procedures as well as geographical variations (Payers and patients)
  • Isolate cost variances between Medicare/Medicaid and private health plans and help appropriately align pricing with private pay (Taxpayers)
  • Analyze healthcare cost trends over time at an heightened level of specificity (Everyone)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and draw comparisons between different types of disease management programs and treatment procedures(Payers, providers and patients)


Our long term outlook on the value of this data is that it can create new metrics of clinical and care performance standards based largely on historical and real-time reporting on claims. We’re hopeful that as such analyses are developed and recognized on a broader stage, they will be used to inform policy on a much more direct basis and make a huge impact on the costs of healthcare.

Have a great week.

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