Cigna is trying to change its business model so that it becomes customary for it to publish its own healthcare data.
The pilot effort is currently publishing findings from analyses on health services use and delivery, according to lead medical director for the project Stuart L. Lustig, MD.
Here, Lustig shares the drivers behind the publication pilot effort.
Managed Healthcare Executive (MHE): Explain what Cigna is doing. Is this something new?
Lustig: Cigna is mining its vast trove of data to help identify those treatments and interventions that have beneficial outcomes for our customers and those that don’t. While we have previously published papers in peer-reviewed journals, this is a new effort aimed at unlocking the value of our data in order to develop insights that can help drive health improvement.
MHE: Talk about the publication pilot effort. What does it involve? How does it work?
Lustig: The effort, which is ongoing with no fixed end date, started in 2016 with the assembling of a cross-departmental team that includes medical directors, medical officers and individuals from our informatics department. The team meets regularly to consider which research projects to pursue, based on which ones appear to have the most merit, greatest potential impact and best likelihood of being published.
MHE: You have had several manuscripts accepted by journals. Please tell us about those.
Lustig: We’ve had a study of the effectiveness of lumbar fusion surgery to treat degenerative conditions in the Journal of Spine Surgery (June 2017); and a study of what drives medical costs in treatment for breast, lung and colorectal cancer, published in the Journal of Medical Economics (July 2017). Two studies are pending: a study of the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment for opioid use in the American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits; and a study of an intervention to prevent the worsening of chronic kidney disease in Professional Case Management.
MHE: Why do you think that health plans should publish their lessons learned from studying their own big data?
Lustig: Ultimately, it’s about improving the health and well-being of individuals so that they can live healthy and productive lives. That’s our mission as a company. We see it as our responsibility to share the insights we develop based on our research. Knowledge that’s gained but not shared isn’t very useful or helpful.
MHE: What is the goal?
Lustig: The goal is to unlock the value of Cigna's data in order to develop insights that can help drive health improvement.
MHE: Why are you doing this? Do you think you will be at a competitive disadvantage?
Lustig: We’re doing this to advance scientific knowledge and to drive health improvement. We don’t perceive this to be a risk, because we’re not publishing trade secrets—we’re publishing scientific insights based on an examination of our data.