HHS plans national claims database

The federal agency would use federal stimulus funds to collect data as a means of improving comparative effectiveness research.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Jan. 7, 2010

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The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has been collecting claims data from Medicare and Medicaid cases for some time. Now it's looking to collect data from private payers as well.

The data would be used to strengthen research on treatment outcomes and bolster comparative effectiveness research, the agency said.

The HHS announced plans to build a nationwide database of claims information using funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It soon plans to start its search for vendors to build the design for the database.

With funding through the stimulus bill, the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research was created. The council was charged with developing recommendations on how funding appropriated to HHS for comparative effectiveness research should be invested. The council recommended formation of the national claims database.

Payers have stepped up efforts in recent years to expand comparative effectiveness research as the concept of evidence-based medicine took hold. Proponents of comparative effectiveness research believe it is a means of controlling cost and improving quality of care, major tenets of the ongoing health system reform debate.

Several databases currently exist, including state-based databases, that allow researchers to conduct analyses of health trends and treatment outcomes. But they are lacking, according to HHS -- limited either geographically or by scope.

In total, $1.1 billion in stimulus funds were allocated to comparative effectiveness research. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality received $300 million, $400 million went to the National Institutes of Health, and $400 million to HHS.

The HHS statement did not explain how it would collect data from private payers.

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