The Medstat Group is a US company set up in 1981 that provides health care information to customers in the public and private health sectors in order to help them manage health-related costs and be more value-competitive. Finding out information hidden in vast databases and analysing it more competitively would give Medstat and its customers […]
The Medstat Group is a US company set up in 1981 that provides health care information to customers in the public and private health sectors in order to help them manage health-related costs and be more value-competitive. Finding out information hidden in vast databases and analysing it more competitively would give Medstat and its customers a strong lead in the market. The company also supports the MarketScan database – a large health care insurance claims database that contains the histories of more than 7m privately-insured Americans. Barbara Coluni, director of Medstat, says that the company is only interested in using parallel systems if they can solve real business problems effectively. Medstat estimates that the amount of data it holds is doubling every year, so this has ruled out feasibility tests as as option for its customers because of the cost. Changes in the health care market have led to demand for more information. In particular there are rising cost concerns as health insurance premiums increase and eat into the profits of companies offering health insurance schemes to their employees. Medstat is interested in looking at the course of patient treatment and its effectiveness rather than how the claims data is organised. It is using a Maspar Computer Corp parallel machine to run its own proprietary database which it calls the Market Scan Database and is looking at trend analysis and reimbursement models. For example, it is researching the cost-effectiveness of drugs and how these are linked to the total hospitalisation costs such the length of stay in hospital, to discover information such as whether using cheaper drugs really saves money in the long run. Prior to the parallel processing system Medstat was using an HP 3000 with custom Fortran programs and batch-oriented access. Incredible cycle-time reduction Before selecting the Maspar system, it carried out its own benchmarking of the parallel machines commercially available by running simple data querying applications. The studies showed that the price-performance came out best on the Maspar machine. Ms Coluni was very optimistic about the success of the new system. She said that an incredible cycle time reduction was experienced and clients could now be brought in at much lower prices. Processing time is being reduced by as much as 90% and the client delivery cycle has been reduced by about 40%. Although, she added, it had been no easy ride. The down-side is that Medstat has had to develop its own software for the machine. It said that although it this worked well, it was completely reliant on internal technical staff for getting answers from the data. There were frustrations at the lack of commercially available software. Medstat emphasises that it is not a software company and would prefer to let someone else solve that problem, she said. In particular there is a lack of commercially available sort processing systems available to use on the information. Finally, there are few cost-attractive options for getting data onto disk. We operate with all our data on disk at the moment. With the amounts of data we have, we won’t be able to do that for very long.