- CMS unveiled a suite of data products on Monday, including the first annual update to the Medicare hospital charge data set, which compares the average amount a hospital bills for services provided in connection with a similar inpatient stay or outpatient visit.
- Other new data products include interactive dashboards for the Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse and geographic variation data.
- Also on Monday, the FDA launched a new initiative called openFDA that is designed to facilitate access to large, agency-produced public health datasets by presenting information in a "structured, computer readable format."
One of the new tools, the Research Cohort Estimation Tool, is intended to help predict the number of Medicare beneficiaries with specific demographic profiles or medical conditions; the Geographic Variation Tool presents Medicare fee-for-service per-capita spending both at the state and national level. This is yet another step in the journey towards health care transparency, but it's a baby step.
Increasingly, health data experts are beginning to recognize the importance of leveraging nontraditional data in analyzing spending patterns. While geographic and clinical data is important, understanding a Medicare population database in a way that is useful (read: predictive of outcomes and costs) may require the integration of socioeconomic data as well.