Outside ‘contractor’ tapped for HHS research tool development

Venerable news agency tasked with developing secure, interactive program

A company not often associated with the government contracting world has been selected to develop a secure, interactive research tool for the Health and Human Services Department.

Thomson Reuters, best known as a collector and disseminator of news and information, has been chosen by HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to develop the tool, which will enable researchers to perform comparative effectiveness studies without the need for professional computer programming, the media company announced today.

As part of the project, Thomson Reuters will develop a pilot system linking multiple health care data sources and test it by conducting two high-priority analyses of care-delivery options for selected medical conditions.

Although no dollar amount was announced for the project, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has allocated $1.1 billion to support comparative effectiveness research. Such research evaluates medical treatments to determine which work best in real-world settings.

ASPE administrators believe that a tool that summarizes data files without the need for complicated programming will facilitate the research, the announcement states.

Comparative effectiveness studies often depend on aggregating data from different databases, which requires researchers to start each study from scratch and process, clean and format administrative data.

The HHS project is designed to build a tool that will simplify that process by making the clinical and administrative health information housed in federal and state databases and Thomson Reuters' MarketScan databases accessible to researchers using next-generation analytical applications.

The MarketScan databases hold integrated patient-level data for populations covered by commercial insurance, Medicaid and Medicare supplemental plans. The information includes inpatient, outpatient, drug, laboratory, and other data reflecting real-world treatment patterns and costs.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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