Healthcare Heavyweights Team To Compare Medical Devices - InformationWeek
Healthcare // Clinical Information Systems
11:37 AM

Healthcare Heavyweights Team To Compare Medical Devices

SharedClarity, a new company formed by insurer UnitedHealthcare and three big providers, will negotiate with device makers based on performance studies.

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A big insurance company and several major healthcare corporations are teaming to use big data to measure the comparative effectiveness of implanted medical devices, believed to be the first effort of its kind.

UnitedHealthcare, one of the largest U.S. health insurers, and three big healthcare systems -- Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, Dignity Health in San Francisco, and Advocate Health Care in Illinois -- have formed a new company, SharedClarity that will combine United's claims data with clinical data to find out which devices perform the best and produce the best patient outcomes. The company will study artificial hips and knees, pacemakers, heart valves, defibrillators and stents, among other devices.

Although device manufacturers have funded studies comparing the effectiveness of certain kinds of devices, this is believed to be the first time that providers have joined forces with an insurance company to do independent studies of medical device effectiveness.

The three founding provider organizations of SharedClarity together care for about 7 million patients a year at more than 850 locations across the country. In an announcement, SharedClarity said that it plans to recruit additional provider organizations in coming months.

[ Are medical devices being used wisely? Read Medical Device, EHR Integration Could Save $30B: Study. ]

Optum Labs, a joint venture between UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum and the Mayo Clinic, will provide the scientific know-how to do the studies in collaboration with clinicians from the participating health systems. The Lewin Group, another part of Optum, will oversee the research.

Besides resulting in better patient care, the members of SharedClarity believe the studies will save money, said Mark West, president of SharedClarity, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. The affordability of individual devices will be evaluated, he said, based not only on much they cost initially, but also on the number of complications and readmissions associated with their use.

The members of SharedClarity will also pool their purchasing power to negotiate with device makers through the joint venture, using the results of the comparative effectiveness studies. Although the three health systems by themselves might not have much bargaining clout, SharedClarity will also represent United, which provides health benefits to more than 40 million people, said West.

Referring to these future negotiations with device makers, West said, "There will be two price tiers. One will be global for the SharedClarity members. The second price tier will be available to United's network providers. So it's an offering that United can offer its network providers to improve the affordability of medical devices."

A spokesman for the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) could not be reached for comment at press time.

When Optum Labs was formed a few months ago, that company said it would make public the results of its research on improving the quality and lowering the cost of care. But West said that the members of SharedClarity are still evaluating whether and when they'll publish the results of their studies.

With the help of Optum Labs, the company will figure out how to combine United's claims data with clinical data from the providers' disparate systems -- a feat that has required a big data approach in some organizations. Among other things, West said, the provider members will have to determine how to pull data showing which devices from which manufacturers were implanted in each patient, "which is a blind spot in the data that United has." In addition, clinical data on outcomes will have to be collected and aggregated.

If the research shows that a particular device is harmful or has a significantly higher rate of complications than do other devices in the same category, "we have a moral and ethical responsibility" to do something about it, West said. SharedClarity has formed a quality and ethics committee to address issues like this. But the members haven't decided what the proper forum would be or whether to pass on information about faulty devices to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), he said.

SharedClarity is the outgrowth of discussions that started several years ago between United and Dignity Health, then called Catholic Healthcare West, noted West. In the news release, Richard Roth, VP of strategic innovation for Dignity Health, said, "We have a responsibility as providers and insurers to deliver the highest quality, most affordable care possible. In joining together to form SharedClarity we are building a platform that will give doctors, hospitals, and insurers the information we need to make evidence-based decisions about the care we are providing."

Regulatory requirements dominate, our research shows. The challenge is to innovate with technology, not just dot the i's and cross the t's. Also in the new, all-digital The Right Health IT Priorities? issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Real change takes much more than technology. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/16/2013 | 6:04:51 AM
re: Healthcare Heavyweights Team To Compare Medical Devices
This is more of what we need in the healthcare IT field, and luckily we are seeing more of it. When competitors team up to provide a better, more standard product and work together for the benefit of all their patients, only then do you see the power of working together. Healthcare IT shouldnG«÷t be too much of a competition as it should be a way to provide a better healthcare system for all.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
User Rank: Moderator
4/11/2013 | 1:46:41 AM
re: Healthcare Heavyweights Team To Compare Medical Devices
Why are they not supporting the FDA Sentinel program that was set up to do the same thing..where are those claim data bases all insurers committed to donate to help evaluate devices? Make a buck selling data right? United also have Humedica that can de-identify data and sell clinical, what they do. Data selling has become an epidemic and shoot if Walgreens in 2010 made close to $800 million just think of how much is out there to tax as code, mine data and put millions in cash in the bank The banks sell truckloads of data too and put billions in their accounts doing so.

There are a couple large purchasing associations already that broker for pricing and they about fell off their chair when Medtronic about a year ago thought about leaving as that's one of the big device companies the associations negotiate with for pricing. Add the FDA Sentinel device information to this along with hospitals that are giving them information, don't you have about the same? If the FDA is already doing this..well you get my point...why not work together is what I say but the profit would be gone I suppose with selling the data.
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