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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to fully cover preventive screenings for breast, cervical/uterine and colorectal cancers.
For one state agency, declining member utilization of these preventive screenings was a cause for concern. Why were utilization rates dropping? Moreover, what impact was the reduction having on the agency’s costs and its members’ health outcomes?
The state agency, which administers health benefits for 205,000 employees and dependents, set out to identify the cost and outcomes of the ACA-required preventive cancer screenings. What the agency really wanted to know was whether the screenings were resulting in earlier cancer detection, which in turn required less invasive and less costly treatment.
For quite some time, the agency simply assumed that the screenings were cost effective. The challenge was to accurately quantify their impact at a time when:
The state agency’s population health manager (PHM) uses HDMS’ analytics and reporting solution on a quarterly basis to analyze trends in cost and utilization of employee benefits. With HDMS’ data management expertise, the PHM trusted the credibility of the analysis. To further evaluate the cancer screenings, the PHM took advantage of the solution’s built-in evidence-based guidelines to create episode-based analysis groups (cohorts) from claims and enrollment data to measure whether members:
Analysis clearly showed the value of preventive cancer screenings for members and for the state agency:
Today, the state agency reviews a preventive screening dashboard every quarter to monitor outcome metrics. Furthermore, working together with HDMS to perform proactive data analysis may open up new insights into opportunities to reduce costs and improve member health. It’s just one powerful illustration of how robust data analysis can help employers and health plans measure and enhance the effectiveness of preventive health benefits.
The ACS’ updated preventive screening guidelines are now focused on smaller populations. However, they target age and gender groups that account for 82 to 92 percent of breast, cervical, uterine and colorectal cancer diagnoses.
Screenings identify 68 percent of new breast cancer cases and more than 89 percent of other new cancer cases earlier.
So, although the number of eligible members who received preventive cancer screenings declined, compliance with Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) guidelines, which measures individual clinical care influenced by health plan programs, generally improved. (The exception was compliance for breast cancer screenings.)Download the case study
¹Grady, D., “American Cancer Society, in a Shift, Recommends Fewer Mammograms,” The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2015, https://hms.harvard.edu/news/american-cancer-society-shift-recommends-fewer-mammograms
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