On Vector: What your health insurance claims can teach population reseachers

Generalized 3 Hz spike and wave discharges in a child with childhood absence epilepsy by Der Lange on Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spike-waves.png

EEG recording from a patient with epilepsy. (Der Lange/Wikimedia Commons)

I published a piece yesterday on Boston Children’s Hospital’s Vector about health claims data. “Boring!” you say, thinking about those annoying and sometimes unintelligible claims summaries you get from your health insurance.

But get enough claims together from enough people, and there’s a lot they can teach us. Think of them as another form of Big Data:

As with electronic medical records (EMRs), behind every claim an insurer receives is a detailed record about symptoms, tests, diagnosis and treatment. Properly compiled and analyzed, claims data can be an excellent resource for taking population-level snapshots of disease, helping to identify trends and reveal or probe associations.

That’s why claims data recently caught the eye of Kenneth Mandl, MD, MPH, and Mei-Sing Ong, PhD, two researchers in Boston Children’s Informatics Program (CHIP). Using claims records for roughly 2.5 million Americans, they turned their attention to two conditions—epilepsy and asthma—with interesting results.

Read the rest here.


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