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Having Data Isn't Enough: It’s About Using Data to Improve Performance

Earlier this week, Phil Kalin and I had the pleasure of attending Health Datapalooza IV in Washington D.C. The event is the brain child of Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States (what an incredibly cool job title!). The conference brought together many of the brightest minds in the country who are working to solve the health care challenges we face today by releasing health care data, or as Todd Park put it, “Data Liberacion!”. Just four years ago, this event was a meeting of 46 people in a small conference room in DC. These visionaries understood how the release of health care data could change the way we deliver health care in this country and committed to expanding the availability and uses of health care data for public good. This year, the event had over 2000 attendees including IT experts, health care providers, government agencies and policy institutes.

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Making Sense of Variation in Colorado Health Care Pricing

Medicare made news recently by releasing data demonstrating variation in hospital inpatient and outpatient charges and payments. Colorado is uniquely positioned to couple the Medicare information with other payer data contained in the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (APCD) to better understand and identify variation in our own backyard. Medicare’s data showed substantial variation between prices charged and actual payments, which in the world of health care isn’t exactly new news. Nor is the fact that charges for similar services by one hospital can be vastly different than the one down the road. Making the data public for the first time, however, does give us an opportunity to review Medicare payments alongside commercial and Medicaid payments in Colorado to start making sense of it all.

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Protecting Colorado Health Data While Making Costs Transparent

The news is riddled with stories of frustrations over the cost of health care and the lack of transparent information available to patients and employer purchasers. Look at the responses to the recent Time magazine article about bloated hospital costs, and the release of Medicare information about the wide variations in hospital pricing: consumers are aghast at high and wildly varying prices, especially in light of little information about quality.

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