In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Health Data for Action (HD4A) program, managed by AcademyHealth, to serve as a conduit between data owners and researchers. In 2017, the HD4A program awarded six grants using either Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) or athenahealth data. In this newest iteration, the HD4A program doubled the number of participating data providers to include the following four data providers:

Under the second call for proposals (CFP), nineteen new studies have been chosen that will examine topics ranging from care coordination and quality to maternal health, prescription drugs and opioids, obesity, and public health.

Using Medicare Data to Improve Patient Experience

Two of the new projects will use CareJourney’s access to Medicare’s fee-for-service (FFS) Part A, B, and D claims data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Eva DuGoff, Berkeley Research Group, and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins will study the role of physicians and other factors in facilitating or hindering care coordination. Joanne Lynn and colleagues at Altarum will use the CareJourney data to help eight communities allocate resources to reduce the risks and effects of unnecessary and/or harmful medical services.

“Our teams are eagerly anticipating having insights on their whole population,” said Lynn. “The data available now relates to particular providers or very narrow slices of the population. Having metrics that reflect virtually all of the elders living in the community will empower the community to undertake improvements and monitor the effects.”

Insights from Electronic Health Records and Claims Data

Three projects will leverage athenahealth’s cloud-based ambulatory electronic health record and its wealth of information on obesity to examine the relationship between obesity and a range of chronic conditions, as well as to explore whether a shift to team-based care would improve outcomes. Robert Huckman and colleagues at Harvard Business School shared, “The detailed patient-level data that we will analyze through this project will prove critical in distinguishing many factors—whether clinical, behavioral, or socioeconomic—that have been proposed as key determinants of clinical outcomes for this large population of patients dealing with chronic disease.”

Six projects will use de-identified claims data from OptumLabs for privately insured and Medicare Advantage enrollees in a large, private, U.S. plan to traverse topics like the impact of severe storms on asthma in children, the selection of antidepressants, the relationship between the labor market and the opioid epidemic, opioid use disorder treatments, the effect of increases in out-of-pocket costs for insulin, and prenatal care.

For example, Kate Weinberger, University of British Columbia, and her team from Brown University are diving into a breadth of data from OptumLabs to understand the short- and long-term health consequences of extreme weather. “This information is critical as extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent or more severe due to continued climate change,” Weinberger said.

Eight other projects will leverage HCCI’s multipayer claims database, which includes the annual health care claims for nearly 50 million people insured in the individual, group, or Medicare Advantage markets. Reflecting the richness of the data, grantees will explore effects from Medicare Accountable Care Organizations, state policies to enhance the use of prescription drug monitoring programs, postpartum health care, hospital readmissions, the effects of cost-sharing and high deductible health plans, hepatitis C treatment, and the link between investments in social determinants of health and health care costs.

Referring to the timeliness of the HCCI data, grantee Yuhua Bao, Weill Cornell Medical College, shared, “For those of us who study policies addressing the opioid crisis, we are racing against a rapidly evolving policy landscape. Lag in access to up-to-date data often becomes the bottleneck. Access to the most up-to-date HCCI data will lead to a relative fast turn-around in generating early evidence on unintended as well as intended consequences of state policies to improve the safety of opioid prescribing.”

The next round of the HD4A CFP will be announced in early 2020.

Editor’s Note: AcademyHealth is engaged in a number of other activities to connect, build and sustain a dynamic community of data generators, users, health care decision makers, policy experts, and others. New in 2020 our National Health Policy Conference will be co-located with the Health Datapalooza.


Megan Collado, M.P.H.

Senior Director - AcademyHealth

Megan Collado is a Senior Director at AcademyHealth, where she manages a number of Robert Wood Johnson Foundat... Read Bio

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