Medicaid’s Data Gets an Internet-Era Makeover

Steve Lohr | The New York Times | January 9, 2017

Jini Kim’s relationship with Medicaid is business and personal. Her San Francisco start-up, Nuna, while working with the federal government, has built a cloud-computing database of the nation’s 74 million Medicaid patients and their treatment. Medicaid, which provides health care to low-income people, is administered state by state. Extracting, cleaning and curating the information from so many disparate and dated computer systems was an extraordinary achievement, health and technology specialists say. This new collection of data could inform the coming debate on Medicaid spending.

Jini KimAndrew M. Slavitt, acting director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, described the cloud database as “near historic.” Largely because Medicaid information resides in so many state-level computing silos, Mr. Slavitt explained, “we’ve never had a systemwide view across the program.” This week, for the first time, Nuna’s executives are talking about the company’s funders, business strategy and work for Medicaid, starting on Monday evening at the J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Health data on its own — billing, diagnostic and treatment information, typically recorded in arcane, shorthand codes — is not very useful. But if it can be aggregated and analyzed economically and quickly, that data is seen as a vital ingredient in transforming health care. The health care marketplace in the traditional fee-for-service model values volume. More doctor visits, hospital stays, operations and pills mean more revenue and profit for health care providers. But the push in recent years has been toward what is known as value-based health care. In the value model, medical groups are paid for outcomes: patients treated more efficiently and people who are healthier...