FAIR Health Addresses AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference
February 18, 2021
On February 17, FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd spoke virtually at the AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference, held in conjunction with Health Datapalooza. Her presentation was entitled, “Creating Public Trust in Institutions: The Experience of a Big Data Steward.”
Drawing on her experience leading FAIR Health—the steward of the nation’s largest collection of private healthcare claims—Ms. Gelburd spoke about how a “big data” collection can generate trust in institutions, policy making and public health initiatives. She alluded to the origins of FAIR Health as a national, independent nonprofit organization, saying, “We in effect were created out of a national hunger for a standardized, comprehensive and trusted data source to help all stakeholders exhale and have confidence in the information presented.”
To help advance public trust in their institutions, many states have turned to FAIR Health’s “big data” collection to advance their specific programs and initiatives, Ms. Gelburd said. For example, FAIR Health serves as the official data source for many workers’ compensation fee schedules, surprise billing solutions, dispute resolution programs and fee schedules for state government employees; FAIR Health also provides benchmarks for specialized programs such as those that allow for state-supported services to crime victims or certain wellness programs.
Federal agencies and officials have likewise turned to FAIR Health to advance key initiatives and establish trust in the underlying designs and goals of their programs, Ms. Gelburd stated. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses data from FAIR Health to assist with their development of monthly medical indices. FAIR Health has served as the primary source for Government Accountability Office reports on ambulance and dental services. FAIR Health is an ongoing, approved source for MedPAC reports to Congress demonstrating variation between the commercial sector and Medicare programs.
“One important way big data can assist in creating public trust in institutions is serving as the impartial foundation for key legislative initiatives and public health interventions,” said Ms. Gelburd. She noted how FAIR Health, by issuing free data briefs, had provided a window into its data to help legislators and other stakeholders understand the seismic impact of COVID-19 on healthcare utilization and cost. A recent FAIR Health white paper on risk factors for COVID-19 mortality among privately insured patients showed that, across all age groups, patients with COVID-19 and developmental disorders were about three times more likely to die than patients who had COVID-19 but no developmental disorders. The identification of such particularly vulnerable populations has been important to policy makers and public health institutions as they begin to frame vaccine prioritization protocols.
One major change to the healthcare system resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ms. Gelburd, has been the increase in the use of telehealth. FAIR Health sought to bring transparency to the telehealth sector through various tools and resources to help inform legislative and regulatory policies and reimbursement protocols. Toward that end, FAIR Health developed the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, a free, interactive feature on its website comparing a month in 2020 with its corresponding month in 2019. This tracker shows how procedures and diagnoses in a telehealth setting are changing in real time and how such changes vary geographically and demographically. Recent data from the Telehealth Tracker show that telehealth claim lines increased over 3,000 percent nationally from October 2019 to October 2020.