For over 30 years, AcademyHealth's Annual Research Meeting (ARM) has been the premier forum for health services research, where attendees gather to discuss the health policy and health system implications of research findings, sharpen research methods, and network with colleagues from around the world. This year’s meeting in Boston was the largest one yet with more than 2,900 attendees and included 150 sessions with more than 700 speakers and nearly 1,500 posters.

In this post-ARM series, blog posts will summarize key takeaways from sessions on four hot topics:

  1. Data and methods: Dealing with increased volume, variety and velocity of data
  2. The Affordable Care Act: Evaluating the latest in health care reform
  3. Translation and dissemination: Moving evidence into action
  4. Race, ethnicity and health

This is the first post:

ARM 2016: Dealing with increased volume, variety and velocity of data

It is no secret that the environment for health services research (HSR) is evolving rapidly, especially with significant changes in the volume, variety, and velocity of data available and an increasing number of opportunities for collaboration across sectors. In response, AcademyHealth is working to build an infrastructure of training, methods, and governance to support evolving and emerging data streams and to address relevant research questions in rigorous and novel ways.

Formulated from the best abstracts submitted to this year’s ARM, “Best of ARM: New Developments in Data and Methods That Will Transform Our Field Over the Next 5 Years” seeded a provocative discussion on transformational changes in data and methods. The 90-minute discussion highlighted impact, accomplishments, and challenges of using data and methods to improve the health care system and an overall culture of health among Medicare beneficiaries, patient-research, relationships and more.

The four presentation in this methods-focused panel included:

  1. The Impact of Suppressing Substance Use Data on Measures of Chronic Conditions, Hospitalization, and Spending Among Medicare Beneficiaries

    Hundreds of studies of the U.S. health care system each year rely on administrative claims data, like those in the Medicare program, to evaluate the efficiency of the health system, utilization patterns of patients, and quality of care. The presentation of this paper by Julie Bynum explained how the redaction of substance use data has constrained efforts to evaluate what works and what does not work for populations with mental illness or substance use disorders. As a result, Bynum noted, the health system has lost a vital source of information on some of the nation’s most vulnerable patients.

  2. Identifying Patients at High-Risk for Readmission Using Socio-Behavioral Patient Characteristics

    During his presentation, Amol Navathe presented and discussed automated methods for analyzing physician notes which could enable better identification of patients with high socio-behavioral needs who are at increased risk for readmission. This information, he indicated, could improve health system allocation of care management resources to the highest need patients.

  3. Initiative to Support Patient Involvement in Research (INSPIRE)

    This presentation focused on the INSPIRE initiative, which aims to identify training and support needs and synthesize existing tools and resources to meet those needs, while creating a network to help researchers and patients better connect and collaborate in patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR). Danielle Lavalle presented INSPIRE findings around how individual patients and researchers approach research partnerships and how organizations can develop infrastructure and resources that encourage and support patient-researcher relationships.

  4. Linking to Clinical Registrants with the All Payer Claims Database: A Powerful Source of Data to Reform Health Care

    This presentation focused on a New England patient-centered medical home (PCMH) program, and its use of two large databases to guide its efforts: the state’s all-payer claims database and a statewide clinical registry with primary care practice data. Amy Kinner explained that data from the two databases are being used to drive efforts with accountable care organizations and payment reform initiatives focused on the statewide population—an example that could potentially be applicable to the rest of the United States.

These four papers provided clear examples of the potential data and methods have to advance health care, health services research, and improve the overall culture of health. Panelists noted the importance of remembering that each community and patient is different, and studies should be designed to best fit the population in need.