Healthcare alliance Premier has launched an information service aimed at enabling healthcare systems to compare their strengths and weaknesses against the competition.
Representatives of the alliance's decision-support division call it the final piece of a comparative-data lineup put together to allow healthcare systems to improve analysis of their performance both internally and vs. other hospitals and networks.
Until now, Premier has grouped institutions by similar size and type to supply aggregate performance averages on such measures as length of stay, profit margin or costs of care in a particular diagnosis-related group. Those comparisons were crunched from data collected from participating Premier members.
But the new service, called Market Vantage, takes publicly available data from Medicare and state-mandated reporting programs and builds profiles of individual institutions, both within and outside Premier, says Peter Bird, director of marketing and product management.
That will allow alliance members to run comparative analyses of every competitor in a market down to the department level, Bird says.
As a result, a provider organization can calculate how it stacks up on financial and clinical performance in advance of bidding on managed-care contracts or deciding whether to increase or decrease commitment to a particular line of care, Bird says.
If an analysis shows, for example, that a provider network has lower costs and more efficiency than competitors in the care of Medicare patients, it can bid aggressively for fixed-rate contracts with financial risk attached, he says.
On the other hand, if an analysis shows a provider's costs are higher than others in the market, the institution can pull back and fix what's wrong before getting into a competition stacked against it.
That's where the alliance's data-base-driven services take over, Bird says. A system called Perspective, for example, identifies where costs are high in a healthcare operation compared with similar institutions, he says.
The foundation of the new market-comparison service is a database of about 11 million Medicare claims submitted annually through fiscal intermediaries, as well as discharge and claims data that many states require hospitals to submit.
The system takes Medicare cost reports, matches them against hospital discharge data and computes ratios of costs to charges at the department level of each reporting hospital.
While Medicare data cover all 50 states, the hospital discharge data are available only in the 28 states that mandate some form of reporting from hospitals, Bird says.
Extracting such department-level data requires a plunge deep into the details of cost reports, a labor-intensive task taken on by specialized information companies such as HCIA, Inforum and the Sachs Group, he says.
Premier plans to compete for the clientele of these and other specialized vendors by producing reports that cost alliance members one-third to one-half the price charged by those information companies, Bird says. The service also is available to non-Premier members but not at such a deep discount, he says.
The alliance plans to trim service costs and improve access to the information by offering secure access through the Internet. Because members tap directly into the database, they won't have to pay the capital and carrying costs of on-site data storage, and they can gain access from any computer powerful enough to run a World Wide Web browser, Bird says.
In addition, Premier's service includes sophisticated reporting tools that all clients can use instead of having to invest in them individually.