Why is this information important? What are the implications?

There are several research groups examining the diffusion of medical innovation. However, a plethora of conflicting metrics is used to describe these trends, often without consistent definitions of patient populations or treatments. No publicly available source of such measures is readily available. Therefore, innovation researchers are independently engaging in time-consuming, costly, and labor-intensive processes to obtain crude data, from which they subsequently construct diffusion metrics. This work, necessitated by the lack of an integrated comparative platform, is frequently duplicative.

The Dartmouth Atlas website provides regional data on health care utilization, quality measures, and outcomes. However, it only allows the depiction of cross-sectional data on the rates of some medical interventions across the United States. There is no freely available web-based tool providing longitudinal comparative data on the diffusion of medical innovation. The contribution of the proposed website is expected to be that it will allow the real-time comparison of diffusion metrics (using different temporal and regional parameters), will develop linkages to facilitate cross-national comparative research on diffusion of health care technologies, and will provide researchers with useful data to supplement such research. This contribution will be significant because, in the spirit of data sharing, it will prevent duplicative work, expedite diffusion of health care technology research, and foster collaboration between researchers in the field.

Why do you focus on Medicare data? Are there similar trends in the under-65 population?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that collects data for every person and provider using Medicare health insurance, makes available a uniform national claims database for research purposes. There is no counterpart to this database for the commercially insured population.

Why don't you have data for Medicare enrollees who are members of health maintenance organizations (HMOs)?

Health maintenance organizations receive capitated payments from Medicare - a fixed annual amount per enrollee - in exchange for the HMO providing all required services. Since HMOs do not submit individual claims to Medicare, we must exclude members of HMOs from our claims analyses.