What Can the ACR’s Health Policy Institute Do For You?

December 30, 2013

The American College of Radiology’s latest institute is an independent think tank dedicated to trend analysis of the industry’s biggest concerns.

Preserving and augmenting radiology’s voice was an over-arching concern at this year’s RSNA meeting in Chicago.

Increasing radiology’s participation in hospital administrative efforts, strengthening the industry’s input into payment conversations, making sure providers play a bigger role in utilization conversations - these are all important topics. But perhaps the biggest point of interest, especially for the American College of Radiology (ACR), is the need to expand radiology’s participation in policymaking, industry leaders said.

That desire led to this year’s launch of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.

“The college has the obligation to do for its members and provide the information that they can’t generate for themselves,” said Geraldine McGinty, MD, MBA, chair of the ACR’s Commission on Economics, speaking recently at RSNA. “We wanted the health policy institute to support members when they’re asked to make the volume-to-value change, and to do that we needed to have data that allows us to tell the story of the value we can deliver.”

To do that, said Richard Duszak, Jr., MD, the institute’s chief medical officer, staff must study the role and value of radiologists and radiology in the ever-changing healthcare delivery system, focusing on value-based approaches to imaging and what the ACR can do to help the industry remain relevant.

In that vein, the institute will soon have at its disposal eight years of contiguous, longitudinal claims data from CMS for a random 5-percent sample of Medicare beneficiaries. All total, these files offer 1 billion data points into individual patients’ healthcare that staff members will be able to mine.

In many cases, Duszak said, this information will be used to craft policy briefs. Somewhere between paper abstracts and peer review, these self-published documents focus on a variety of topics, including new payment models, increased efficiency, and sound policy decisions that affect the specialty. The target audiences, currently, are Members of Congress, insurance payers, and CMS.

Most importantly, though, said research director Danny Hughes, JD, the institute will bolster the role radiology can play in the crafting of health policy legislation. Each year, the organization plans to award between $30,000 to $60,000 in seed grants.

Partnership with the institute will give recipients access to research experts who can help identify strong research questions that can lead to actionable data collection from several sources, including national surveys, public and private data, and a facility’s own system.

Policy staffers can also help you choose the right model for analysis:

Trend analysis: This model examines variation over time, such as changes in specific procedures, sites of service, or patient types. At minimum, Hughes said, trend analysis should look at a percentage change over time and is best depicted through graphs or tables.

Descriptive analysis: This method allows researchers to examine variable differences between two groups, such as mammography patients both over and under age 50. Data is either cross-sectional or longitudinal.

Multivariate regression analysis: This method explores the association between variables and uses data to adjust for any confounders. It generates significance estimators and can be used to predict how data will perform.

Logistical regression: In this simple model, data depends on a simple yes or no question. For example, researchers could ask whether imaging was offered and, then, make estimates on the adds that the answer is yes.