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Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Launches Alliance For Health Research

November 4, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Chicago-based Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has launched a partnership with a group of leading health care academics to enable university researchers access to commercial insurance claims data.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Alliance for Health Research (Alliance) was established to engage leading U.S. health care researchers in collaborative efforts to use Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies’ de-identified data to explore critical health care issues in order to improve the health of Americans. The Alliance provides researchers with use of a secure data portal that comprises the largest collection of de-identified commercial insurance claims, medical professional and cost of care information.

“The purpose of the Alliance is to leverage the breadth of BCBS data to enable richer analytics, sharper insights and smarter solutions for improving health care quality and affordability,” Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for BCBSA, said in a statement.

Three initial Alliance studies that are planned include:

Harvard Medical School’s Michael Chernew, Ph.D., will explore the variation across providers in use of opioids and related consequences; patterns of pain management and choice of opioids versus alternative therapies; and assess the impact of policies and programs on opioid use. Chernew’s colleague Nicole Maestas, Ph.D., is researching the use of opioid treatment for pain and its effect on health and functional outcomes such as disability and employment among middle-aged and older Americans.

Yale University’s Dr. Cary Gross is studying how options for cancer screenings have evolved during the past decade and the economic and clinical implications of these changes. The study will examine associated costs, geographic and demographic variation in use, and impact on cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival.

Scripps Translational Science Institute’s Dr. Nathan Wineinger, Ph.D. and Dr. Steven Steinhubl will research the variation in biologic use, including across geographies and over time, as well as how the prescribing biologics influences health outcomes and whether there are trends among classes of biologics.

“BCBSA’s decision to allow independent access to their data demonstrates a commitment to supporting evidence based transformation of the health care system,” Chernew, an Alliance partner and the Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Care Policy, said.

“BCBS claims data give us access to detailed and wide-ranging information on how health care providers are delivering care to patients,” Dr. Vivian Ho, Ph.D., an Alliance partner and the James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics at Rice University's Baker Institute, said. “Comparing health care strategies across these providers will allow us to identify the best methods for improving the lives of chronically ill patients, preventing the onset of serious illness and controlling rising health care costs.”

Other initial partners in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Alliance for Health Research include Janet Currie, Ph.D., Princeton University, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs; Eric Topol, M.D., Scripps Translational Science Institute, Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute; Arnold Milstein, M.D., Stanford University Professor of Medicine; Jamie Robinson, Ph.D., University of California Berkeley Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Economics; David Meltzer, M.D., University of Chicago, Fanny L. Pritzker Professor of Medicine; David Kendrick, M.D., University of Oklahoma, Chair, Department of Medical Informatics, University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine and Harlan Krumholz, M.D., Yale University, Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Professor in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies, of Investigative Medicine and of Public Health.


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