The trade group for New Jersey’s hospitals has launched a statewide data analysis initiative to identify trends in public health and medical treatment. The goal is to assist industry stakeholders to deliver more effective, efficient care and help improve the health of state residents in general.
On Tuesday the New Jersey Hospital Association outlined plans for its Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation, or CHART, which will collect and analyze data from a variety of government and industry sources, including insurance claims, going back a decade if needed.
The group will also use predictive computer modeling to gain greater understanding of the state’s underlying healthcare challenges, knowledge that can aid providers and public policy experts adopt treatment strategies to better meet public and population health needs across the Garden State, NJHA said. The findings would also be made public.
Getting ahead of the issues
The program, which reflects a new mission by the NJHA board, is designed to help the organization get in front of emerging issues, instead of responding to these trends. It is designed to benefit the hundreds of the association’s members — hospitals, nursing homes, and other care providers — in deciding how to allocate program resources or what issues of care need attention, the group said.
It will also allow the association to work with other stakeholders, including community organizations and elected and appointed officials, to create a more coordinated, proactive approach to improving the health of Garden State residents, leaders said. This includes informing policies that target issues considered social determinants of health — factors like poverty, education and housing, which can have long-term impacts on patient outcomes.
CHART’s first focus is an in-depth review of mental health and substance-abuse claims from insurance providers to learn the geographic nature of the crisis, and where in New Jersey they have hit the hardest, and to identify areas with a particular need for more services and better care coordination. The group plans to publish its results in a white paper this fall.
“So many of the problems we see in healthcare today — racial and ethnic disparities, access to care barriers, variations in use of healthcare services, variables in access and funding of prevention and wellness — require a deeper dive into why,” said NJHA president and CEO Cathy Bennett, a former state health commissioner who focused on improving population health.
“One of the ways we get closer to answering that question is to have solid data that shows us the root causes of these problems,” she said. “We can then support design of solutions that address the foundation of the problem, rather than the symptoms.”
Plugging gaps in care
Sean Hopkins, an NJHA vice president who is overseeing the project, said the goal is to improve the quality and value of care, intervene earlier when changes are needed, and identify and plug gaps in care. “To really improve health, and to make our healthcare services sustainable, you have to be more future-focused,” he said.
Data collection and analysis has played a growing role in healthcare — and most other fields — in recent years, with more academic, philanthropic, nonprofit, governmental, and commercial organizations collecting and reviewing findings to determine where to invest their time and efforts.
The state Department of Health uses public health findings to track its work on public health issues and disease prevention through the Healthy New Jersey 2020 program, and health insurance companies have long depended on claims data to establish the cost of coverage.
The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, a nonprofit network dedicated to improving care for the region’s most vulnerable patients, has used data from local providers to identify and better deliver care to “super-utilizers,” patients who were frequent visitors to city hospitals and required some of the most costly treatments. This technique, known as hot-spotting, is taking root in communities nationwide.
CHART’s analysis is intended to make an immediate impact on awareness about certain issues, Hopkins added, but will also build on the work done by other data-driven organizations. Further, the program will also employ hot-spotting to map chronic care demands and identify areas of the state in which more patients are being hospitalized for these reasons.
These findings will help providers develop “targeted support and programming to help keep people healthy in their homes and communities,” the NJHA said.
Dealing with chronic conditions
Chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure impact roughly half the adults in America, according to the hospital association, and are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths. In addition, three out of every four healthcare dollars is spent on addressing chronic conditions, including mental health issues.
“The costs of chronic diseases are far too high, for both individuals and for the healthcare system,” Hopkins said. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our goal is to use data in a new way to educate providers of all types, as well as policymakers and opinion leaders, to facilitate communication and care coordination where there are opportunities for proactive change for improved chronic disease management.”
The CHART program will function as an NJHA department and is funded through the organization’s existing budget, for now, Hopkins noted. He and Joe Carr, the NJHA’s chief information officer, and other staff will devote much, but not all of their time to the project.
The group plans to publish white papers and reports, bulletins to update stakeholders on specific findings, and other policy recommendations. It will also host roundtable discussions and other work that “supports providers as they re-envision the healthcare delivery system and spark policy dialogues with leaders in healthcare, government, social services, and other areas for a collaborative approach to problems that affect New Jerseyans’ health and wellbeing,” according to NJHA.
Bennett said the approach also reflects a new mission recently embraced by the NJHA board: improving the health of people across the state. “To help fulfill that mission, we need actionable information, greater insight, innovative approaches and timely action. CHART sets us up to deliver that,” she said.