In a Pandemic Year, FAIR Health Expands Its Research Role

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, FAIR Health’s research role became even more vital in 2020 than in the past. Focusing on COVID-19, we accelerated the pace of our research studies, and external researchers cited our data and studies at four times the rate of the year before.

A central part of FAIR Health’s mission as a national, independent nonprofit dedicated to bringing transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information has always been support for health systems research. As in years past, our research mission has been driven by our FAIR Health National Private Insurance Claims (FH NPIC®) repository of private healthcare claims, the nation’s largest. At present, the database contains more than 32 billion claim records for medical and dental services from 2002 to the present and is growing by more than 2 billion new claim records per year.

The arrival of COVID-19 in the United States made our research mission more urgent than ever. In March 2020, when the pandemic was just starting its rapid escalation, we began issuing a series of data briefs, addressing mainly the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of the healthcare system. One brief examined key characteristics of COVID-19 patients, and a white paper, produced in collaboration with the West Health Institute and Marty Makary, MD, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, reported on risk factors for COVID-19 mortality.

Because the pandemic was expected to increase demand for telehealth, we created the Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, an online resource tracking month-by-month changes in telehealth usage. Other new telehealth resources included FH® Telehealth benchmarks and FH® Explore, a FAIR Health-hosted data enclave offering detailed datasets on telehealth.

For more details on FAIR Health’s publications and telehealth resources, see the summary of this year’s FAIR Health Research in this issue.

At the same time, more external researchers than ever before made use of FAIR Health data or cited our studies in 2020. This research was published in journals such as JAMA and Health Affairs, issued by government agencies such as the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and released by organizations such as the Urban Institute. Topics included COVID-19, telehealth, cancer care, pediatric care, a potential public health insurance option and surprise billing. For more details, see the summary of this year’s External Research in this issue.

This year also saw the expansion of FAIR Health’s Academic Advisory Board, a diverse group of distinguished researchers who help us advance the research potential of our data. The charge of the Academic Advisory Board now has an increased emphasis on vulnerable populations and healthcare disparities.

In addition, FAIR Health has continued collaborating with other organizations to apply our data to research. Media outlets for the general public and for healthcare sector professionals regularly report on FAIR Health-generated and externally generated research.

For more information on using FAIR Health data and analytics for research, contact us by email at info@fairhealth.org or call us at 855-301-FAIR (3247), Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm ET.