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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Researchers can use information to improve health care quality and efficiency

Minnesota is the first state in the Midwest to publish summary files of health insurance claims that researchers, providers, insurers and others can use to learn more about the types of health care services provided in Minnesota, their outcomes and how much they cost.

This first round of public data from the Minnesota All Payer Claims Database, a secure state repository of claims, summarizes the health conditions, health care costs, health care services and places of service listed by the first three digits of the zip codes reported on medical claims during 2013. The data are available to users free of charge.

"It is our hope that researchers, insurers, providers and others will find new and innovative ways to use these data to create more price transparency, improve care and lower health care costs," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

Five other states – Maine, Oregon, Utah, New Hampshire and Colorado – are currently releasing public files from their all-payer claims databases. Minnesota's database comes from medical providers' billing records sent to insurance companies, plan administrators and public payers.

"More transparency in health care is essential," said Carolyn Pare, president and chief executive officer of the Minnesota Health Action Group. "We appreciate the availability of this data to help inform how our members, which include some of Minnesota's largest employers, make purchasing decisions."

In 2015, the Minnesota Legislature directed MDH to develop these files for the public while protecting the identities of individual patients, providers and claim payers. In order to ensure these protections, MDH summarized data by geographic areas defined by the first three digits of the patient's zip code and by age grouping.

If a group contained only a small number of patients, providers or claim payers, MDH staff used additional techniques, such as combining zip codes, to keep the data anonymous. MDH is required to update the data sets annually. Individuals and organizations interested in the data can learn more at the public use files website. Due to the size and complexity of the database, potential users need to submit a request to MDH to start the process.

MDH will offer a webinar on April 28 to discuss the data and field questions from potential users.

"We look forward to engaging with potential data users," said Stefan Gildemeister, director of the MDH Health Economics Program. "This will help us create an evolving set of data over time and inform our own research."

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