Data analytics platform finds $2B overspend for preventable events

'This study shows we still have room for improvement'
By Erin McCann
11:06 AM
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The Minnesota Department of Public Health for the first time ever has decided to analyze its troves of hospital admissions and ED data statewide. And what they found was more than a bit concerning when it came to costs and clinical outcomes.

Tapping a 3M data analytics platform and delving into the state’s payer claims database, state health officials identified that over the course of 2012, nearly 1.3 million inpatient visits were "potentially preventable."

And the price tag of all these preventable patient visits? A whopping $2 billion cost, the report found.

Despite Minnesota having total inpatient per capita costs slightly below the national average, "this study shows we still have room for improvement," said the state’s Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger, MD, in a July 23 statement announcing report findings. "Equipped with these findings, we will work with providers and community leaders to ensure patients more consistently receive the right care, in the right place at the right time."

Potentially preventable events were specified as hospital and ED patients visits that could have been avoided under "the right circumstances," including better medication management, more timely access to primary care, improved care coordination and greater health literacy.

What's perhaps just as telling is that the lion's share of 2012 emergency department visits, 1.2 million of them, which is approximately two out of three visits – were deemed potentially preventable. These visits collectively cost a staggering $1.3 billion.

Breaking down which medical conditions brought these numbers up significantly, researchers found that upper respiratory infections accounted for 9 percent; abdominal pain at 7 percent and musculoskeletal/connective tissue conditions at 7 percent accounted for the most common diagnoses for preventable ED visits.

Here, officials underscored that Medicaid beneficiaries significantly impacted this number. In 2012, despite making up 14 percent of the state population, they accounted for 40 percent of ED visits.

When looking at preventable hospital admissions, the data also showed significant room for improvement. In 2012, some 50,000 events could have been avoided, representing a cost of $373 million. The areas of improvement identified were specific cases of pneumonia, heart failure and COPD.

Officials acknowledged there's much work to be done on fixing these numbers but also called for a holistic approach, as there’s myriad factors at play that impact these visits.

"This work requires approaches that look not just at coordinating medical care but at addressing social factors and preventing these events from happening in the first place," said Ross Owen, director of Hennepin Health, a health plan provider. "This MDH report is an important statewide step toward understanding that opportunity."