• Getting more data is always good

    I’m still attending/moderating our CHSR symposium (which is going amazingly well), but the health services researcher in me can’t ignore this:

    Several major health insurers have agreed to provide their claims data on a regular basis to academic researchers, in an unusual agreement that they say will open a window onto the rising costs of health care.

    AetnaHumana, Kaiser Permanente and the UnitedHealth Group plan to supply information on more than five billion medical claims, representing more than $1 trillion in spending, to a newly created nonprofit group, theHealth Care Cost Institute.

    About $2.6 trillion is spent each year in the United States on health care, an amount that is expected to increase by about 80 percent in the next decade.

    While Medicare has made its data available to researchers, with certain confidentiality restrictions like prohibiting identification of individual doctors, information from private insurers has been largely piecemeal.

    “Our perspective is that the nation needs greater transparency about what is driving health care costs,” said Simon Stevens, an executive vice president for the UnitedHealth Group.

    I could not agree more. Kudos to those companies getting involved. Now I just need to know how we can get our hands on that data. Does anyone know?

    • The only information to help with this that I could find on their just-starting web-site is this:

      How will the Institute decide who gets access to the data?
      The Institute’s Board and committees including the Scientific Review Committee will be responsible for the development of research standards to govern access to the data.

      If you get anything more detailed, I’m sure many readers would love to hear it.

    • Awesome! I will try to suppress any latent skepticism about the completeness of the data they plan to release.


    • You know, there are already huge multipayer claims databases out there. Thomson Reuters has one called MarketScan that may be as large as this new one will be. Of course, you will probably have to pay them to get access to the data, but it’s worth seeing if they offer scholarly access at reduced or no cost (especially since they have new competition and will probably not want analyses from the new database to grab all the headlines).