Open Data Empowers Patients
By Elana Hopman
There are few topics more polarizing and volatile than the discussion of healthcare in America. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has put a spotlight on the debate, highlighting the need for data-driven conversations. To that end, Puget Sound Business Journal recently published the results of an analysis of hospital billing data to determine the most cost-effective healthcare options in the area.
The analysis was performed by the personal finance site NerdWallet.com, and used billing data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. By evaluating and comparing the 98 most common Medicare treatments, consumers and prospective patients can make informed choices about local hospitals.
For example, the study identified Virginia Mason as the most affordable option in the Seattle area 49 percent of the time, while Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill earned that distinction only four percent of the time. While this particular study does not take into account other cost-impacting factors, such as out-of-pocket expenses or private insurance spending, it does provide a sense of scale and perspective, allowing patients the opportunity to make data-driven decisions when choosing a hospital.
As the debate generated by the Affordable Care Act continues, the need for data transparency will likely become more clear, making room for data analysis to be a driving force toward patient empowerment and health care consumer education. Some governments, such as the State of New York, are getting ahead of this trend by publishing healthcare data in user-friendly formats. In fact, the Health Data NY portal was recently awarded a Digital Government Achievement Award for efforts to make health data more accessible to citizens.