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HHS Releases New Data and Tools to Increase Transparency on Hospital Utilization and Other Trends

Jun 3

Written by:
Tuesday, June 03, 2014 7:56 AM  RssIcon

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing new data and launching new initiatives at the annual Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C.

On June 2, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its first annual update to the Medicare hospital charge data, or information comparing the average amount a hospital bills for services that may be provided in connection with a similar inpatient stay or outpatient visit. CMS is also releasing a suite of other data products and tools aimed to increase transparency about Medicare payments. The data on CMS’s website now includes inpatient and outpatient hospital charge data for 2012, and new interactive dashboards for the CMS Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse and geographic variation data. Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a new open data initiative. Before the end of the conference, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will announce the winners of two data challenges.

2012 Inpatient and Outpatient Hospital Charge Data

The data posted on the CMS website provide the first annual update of the hospital inpatient and outpatient data released by the agency last spring. The data include information comparing the average charges for services that may be provided in connection with the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays at over 3,000 hospitals in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

With two years of data now available, researchers can begin to look at trends in hospital charges. For example, average charges for medical back problems increased nine percent from $23,000 to $25,000, but the total number of discharges decreased by nearly 7,000 from 2011 to 2012.

In April, ONC launched a challenge – the Code-a-Palooza challenge – calling on developers to create tools that will help patients use the Medicare data to make health care choices. Fifty-six innovators submitted proposals and 10 finalists are presenting their applications during Datapalooza. The winning products will be announced before the end of the conference.

Chronic Conditions Warehouse and Dashboard

CMS recently released new and updated information on chronic conditions among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, including:

• Geographic data summarized to national, state, county and hospital referral regions levels for the years 2008-2012;

  • Data for examining disparities among specific Medicare populations, such as beneficiaries with disabilities, dual-eligible beneficiaries and race/ethnic groups;
  • Data on prevalence, utilization of select Medicare services and Medicare spending;
  • Interactive dashboards that provide customizable information about Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions at state, county and hospital referral regions levels for 2012; and
  • Chartbooks and maps.

These public data resources support the HHS Initiative on Multiple Chronic Conditions by providing researchers and policymakers a better understanding of the burden of chronic conditions among beneficiaries and the implications for the health care system.

Geographic Variation Dashboard

The Geographic Variation Dashboards present Medicare fee-for-service per-capita spending at the state and county levels in interactive formats. CMS calculated the spending figures in these dashboards using standardized dollars that remove the effects of the geographic adjustments that Medicare makes for many of its payment rates. The dashboards include total standardized per capita spending, as well as standardized per capita spending by type of service. Users can select the indicator and year they want to display. Users can also compare data for a given state or county to the national average. All of the information presented in the dashboards is also available for download from the Geographic Variation Public Use File.

Research Cohort Estimate Tool

CMS also released a new tool that will help researchers and other stakeholders estimate the number of Medicare beneficiaries with certain demographic profiles or health conditions. This tool can assist a variety of stakeholders interested in specific figures on Medicare enrollment. Researchers can also use this tool to estimate the size of their proposed research cohort and the cost of requesting CMS data to support their study.

Digital Privacy Notice Challenge

ONC, with the HHS Office of Civil Rights, will be awarding the winner of the Digital Privacy Notice Challenge during the conference. The winning products will help consumers get notices of privacy practices from their health care providers or health plans directly in their personal health records or from their providers’ patient portals.

OpenFDA

The FDA’s new initiative, openFDA, is designed to facilitate easier access to large, important public health datasets collected by the agency. OpenFDA will make FDA’s publicly available data accessible in a structured, computer readable format that will make it possible for technology specialists, such as mobile application creators, web developers, data visualization artists and researchers to quickly search, query or pull massive amounts of information on an as needed basis. The initiative is the result of extensive research to identify FDA’s publicly available datasets that are often in demand, but traditionally difficult to use. Based on this research, openFDA is beginning with a pilot program involving millions of reports of drug adverse events and medication errors submitted to the FDA from 2004 to 2013. The pilot will later be expanded to include the FDA’s databases on product recalls and product labeling.

For more information about CMS data products, please visit http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems.html.

For more information about the FDA announcement, visit http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM399335 or http://open.fda.gov/.

Tags: data , cms , hhs , fda
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