Data Platform Facilitates Innovation and Consumer Education

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By Steven Randazzo | On Mon, 08/06/2012 - 5:35pm

The next installment of’s blog post series highlighting applications that have been developed leveraging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data features HealthGrades.

Below is a guest post by Roger Holstein, Healthgrades Chief Executive Officer.

The federal government collects immense quantities of health care data. A natural first step towards facilitating innovation in both the private and public sectors is providing that data to developers through services such as data to organizations that can: 1) interpret the data, 2) marry it to other data sets, and 3) distribute the data in a meaningful way to the public will result in better educated users of the health care system.If distributed broadly and communicated correctly, it will also result in positive behavior change by both consumers and providers of care.

Healthgrades uses data made available by the federal government to help educate consumers on a number of different fronts.  Information generated by Healthgrades is used by more Americans to find information about provider quality and selection than any other online or offline medium. Annually, 200 million unique visitors research providers, symptoms, and treatment alternatives through Healthgrades network of web properties

As an example, Healthgrades risk-adjusts three years of data from the Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MEDPAR) database to help consumers evaluate and compare hospital performance.  Healthgrades 2012 analysis of hospital quality found the following:

  • Patients had a 73% lower risk of dying at top performing hospitals (five-star rated facilities) compared to the poorest performing hospitals (one-star rated facilities), and a 54% lower chance of dying in top-performing hospital compared with the national average.
  • Patients were 63% less likely to experience an inhospital complication in top-performing hospitals (five-star rated facilities) compared to a poor-performing hospitals (one-star rated facilities), and patients had a 43% lower chance of developing an inhospital complication than the national average.
  • If all hospitals performed at the level of a top performing hospitals during 2008-2010 federal fiscal years, 240,040 Medicare lives could potentially have been saved and 164,472 inhospital complications could have potentially been avoided.

Patients have been visiting for more than a decade and use this information as part of their decision-making process to select a provider.  Healthgrades relies on CMS data to build the tools necessary for that endeavor.

To help people considering weight-loss surgery better understand their options, Healthgrades used government data to analyze the number of procedures, surgery charges by state, procedure types, and complication rates from bariatric surgeries performed at 478 hospitals across 19 states from 2008 through 2010.  This information was just released publicly earlier today.

Surgery charges varied widely by state and by quality of hospital:

  • California was the most expensive state for bariatric surgery, with an average charge of $57,280 per patient.
  • Conversely, Maryland was the least expensive state, with an average charge of $15,896.
  • Charges for a bariatric procedure at a 5-star hospital were $3,189 less on average than at a 1-star hospital.

The striking variations we found in surgery charges and complication rates underscore the importance of being an informed consumer.  Consumers accessing provider related information at will find:

  • Risk-adjusted performance measures on approximately 5,000 hospitals each year for more than two dozen of the most common procedures and diagnoses. 
  • Hospital measures for patient satisfaction based on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) data.
  • Hospital patient safety performance for thirteen indicators of patient safety developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
  • Pertinent information on more than 900,000 physicians gathered from hundreds of sources including all 50 states.  Providers themselves can access and maintain their data through Healthgrades online Physician Portal.

There is a tremendous consumer demand for any data that can provide comparative, meaningful information.  Many organizations are gradually filling the demand where once there was a void.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plays a large role in this process through development and implementation of standardized data platforms and delivery mechanisms that make the data more accessible. 

The last decade has seen a tremendous evolution in terms of data availability. It is up to us to determine how to make use of the data.The next decade will see exponential increases in uses of the data that we couldn’t have envisioned five years ago and CMS is strategically applying resources to plan for growth in this area.

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