Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Population Health News

Drexel, Independence Blue Cross Team Up for Population Health

By Jennifer Bresnick

Researchers in the Philadelphia area will focus on chronic disease management, population health, and quality improvements.

- Drexel University and Independence Blue Cross have announced a population health management research partnership that will help to develop technologies that enable better predictive analytics, chronic disease management, and risk stratification to healthcare providers and patients.

“The future of health care is dependent upon finding new ways to use technology and information to predict illness and prevent health problems before they develop,” said Independence President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty. “This exciting, new research initiative, with one of our region’s premier universities, will help us discover and expand ways to improve health outcomes, lower health care costs and enrich our members’ health care experience.”

“We are pleased to expand our partnership with Independence Blue Cross and help apply analytics expertise to the challenges of health care,” added Drexel University President John A. Fry. “Working alongside one of the key players in health care in the region, Drexel has the opportunity to advance our goal of improving the quality of life for Philadelphians.”

As recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ) highlights, the severe financial toll of patients with complex chronic diseases is of critical concern to payers who are investing in a number of strategies that attempt to combat costly super-spending patients.  The top five percent of patients with multiple chronic diseases account for 30% of spending on chronic disease management, with an annual mean of more than $78,000.

Payers are investing not only in research to cut these costs as much as possible, but also in practical applications of population health management theories by establishing accountable care organizations and agreements with thousands of providers each month.

Researchers at Drexel plan to explore improved methods for identifying Independence Blue Cross plan members at high risk of hospitalization or re-hospitalization or those who could benefit from more robust chronic disease management programs.  They will also apply machine learning techniques to unstructured data from EHRs and other sources that will help to predict areas of risk and target appropriate interventions.  Other areas of study include ways to detect potential healthcare fraud and help patients to protect their data and medical identity.

The research program follows another partnership formed in 2012 that established an analytics certificate program through Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.  The program teaches analytics principles that help professionals leverage health IT to improve care quality.

“We’re already seeing some impressive early results from informatics projects we’ve designed, as well other research partnerships we’ve initiated, to improve our members’ health,” said Somesh Nigam, PhD, Independence’s senior vice president and chief informatics officer. “We’re going to see tremendous growth in machine learning and predictive analytics over the next few years, and it’s very exciting for Independence to be at the center of that work.”

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