Despite being the country's smallest state, Rhode Island is home to a whole lot of activity aimed at getting healthcare costs under control.
Brown University in Providence is putting $550,000 from a New York not-for-profit organization to work, drilling into the state's all-payer claims database to measure healthcare performance and try to figure out how to make the information useful to consumers, payers and providers.
Parallel to that effort, a governor-appointed steering committee recently began meeting with the goal of setting a healthcare cost growth target by the end of the year.
Rhode Island was chosen for the grant because there's so much momentum in the state to lower healthcare costs, said Dr. Jay Want, executive director of the Peterson Center on Healthcare, which awarded the grant. It's one of the few states that places an annual cap on how much insurance companies can increase their prices in contracts with hospitals.
The work in Rhode Island is mirrored by that of other states, many of which are working feverishly to harness the wealth of information that has been accumulating for years in their all-payer claims databases, electronic portals that collect all of the private and public insurance claims their rules allow. Like in Rhode Island, the work is often aided by grants from the private sector.
The real challenge, then, becomes building actionable tools, such as easy-to-use websites, that can help chip away at the problem of ballooning healthcare costs by helping individuals and payers choose where to get less expensive and higher quality care.
Even though 16 states had all-payer claims databases up and running as of earlier this year and another two had plans in place to do so, the National Conference of State Legislatures says it's still too early to say whether they've helped states control costs for patients or payers.
“We haven't seen the kind of shift in consumer demands associated with that information being really usable,” Want said.