The Truven Health Blog

The latest healthcare topics from a trusted, proven, and unbiased source.


Faced with a health system or hospital budget shortfall?

Peer benchmarking could lead to the answer.

By Truven Staff

Tell us if this health system’s challenge sounds familiar: CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System, located in Northeast Texas, was facing a staggering potential setback when a number of payer contracts changed. The difference amounted to a $25 million shortfall in their budget’s revenue.

The system’s first reaction might have been to issue an across-the-board expense reduction mandate to make up the budget difference. We all know that can happen a lot in the industry, but it doesn’t always produce the results healthcare organizations need, and quality of care can be impacted.

Instead, this system chose a data-driven, strategic savings approach as the path forward, with an eye on long-term financial independence from these types of shortfalls.

A look at the targeted expenses

Using a comprehensive comparative database, the system was able to benchmark costs, productivity and resource utilization against best-in-class facilities of similar size and demographics.

Leaders identified cost improvement opportunities in areas such as supply, labor costs, length of stay and purchased services — areas where the system was not at the same level as high-performing peers in terms of expenditures.

The benchmarking information from the database was also used as a call to action for staff to find methods of improving processes and cost management. CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances leaders formed teams and assigned financial targets. Teams then used the database to answer the question, “If another health system is able to keep supply costs at this level, what can we do to bring our costs to that level with no bearing on our patient care or satisfaction?” The health system also created a dedicated project management office to help guide the process. The results of these efforts (in box below) speak for themselves.

If you’d like more information on how the health system achieved this result, please reach out to us. You can also read the full case study here.



Americans Not Concerned with Data Privacy — For the Most Part

By Truven Staff
Truven Health recently conducted a nationwide poll, in conjunction with NPR, to investigate data privacy concerns. The results? Generally, Americans are comfortable with the idea that medical data is shared with employers and health plans. Most of us are willing to share our anonymized data with health researchers. Most of our providers have electronic medical records, and many of us have reviewed our own information. We don’t have a lot of reason to worry about unauthorized access; barely 5 percent have ever been notified of a security breach. 

But we don’t want to share everything with everyone. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Taylor, was shocked to learn that more than three-quarters of Americans would not be willing to share their social and credit card data with their providers and health plans, even if it would improve their overall health. 

NPR’s take on the poll: medical data privacy is not a big concern for most people. Our take: As always, we prefer to let the data speak for itself.

Truven Health Welcomes Simpler Consulting

By Truven Staff
Mike Boswood imageThis week I welcomed Simpler Consulting to our company. This acquisition makes sense because Truven and Simpler will make a game-changing combination in the healthcare marketplace – driving growth and strengthening our ability to reduce the cost and improve the quality of healthcare. Our powerful analytic capabilities, in combination with Simpler’s consultative expertise and unique approach to operational improvement, will complement each other in the following ways:

  • Enable provision of end-to-end performance improvement services for both Truven and Simpler clients
  • Support further development of enterprise-wide engagement
  • Support international growth for both businesses
In addition to its healthcare practice, Simpler has a commercial division that provides performance improvement consulting services to a wide range of businesses in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. We expect this business to expand in the immediate future and over time will look for additional opportunities with both our Commercial and Government divisions.

The entire Simpler management team is remaining with the business under the leadership of CEO Marc Hafer. They bring with them vast experience of the Lean performance improvement process along with proprietary methodologies and tools that have been developed and successfully deployed over many years.

In the past year, our company has completed the last steps of the very complex process of standing up as an independent company. Now I look forward to a bright future where, with our new colleagues, we will be able to bring ever greater value to our customers.

Mike Boswood
President and CEO

Testosterone Therapy Tied to Heart Attack (A Hint: It’s Not Rhinoceros Horn)

By Truven Staff
Bill Marder imageOver the years, men have tried a lot of things to cope with diminished sex drive — rhinoceros horn included. While that strategy created a lot of risk for the rhinoceros, a recent study published in PLOS ONE found that our modern pharmaceutical solutions are posing significant risks to the men.

The study, by William Finkle and colleagues, examined the frequency of adverse side effects stemming from testosterone therapy. It found an increased risk of heart attack in men younger than 65 with a history of heart disease and in older men even without a history of heart disease. The study results have garnered a lot of interest and even prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the safety of the therapy. The results and their ripple effects are getting a lot of attention in the press and for a number of good reasons.

First, testosterone therapy has been a rapidly growing phenomenon. Some of the growth is related to our aging population, but their manufacturers have also promoted these hormone supplements as a cure for low testosterone or
“low T” (code for diminished sex drive) — and that has been controversial. Sexual references tend to generate a fair amount of press, all other things equal.

Second, any drug marketed with direct-to-consumer advertising can expect more press because it is familiar to the public and the advertising itself generates controversy. Patients are more likely to request an advertised drug from their physician and that can influence prescribing decisions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this study is getting a lot of attention because it is well done. This is an observational study that examined a large population — 55,593 men. All of these men had been prescribed testosterone treatments and 48,539 of them were younger than 65 years old.

The study was executed with great care and its results reflect the power of observational studies to advance our understanding of complex events, especially those that are rare. The authors analyzed medical and drug claims from our Truven Health MarketScan® Research databases, meaning they had access to the most robust Big Data healthcare claims source in the industry. It has been referenced in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and this one is an interesting new addition to the literature.

Superior data is a necessary condition for a quality study. It may not be as sexy as a cure for “low-T,” but it is rewarding to know that we provide a quality foundation for research that is headline-worthy.

Bill Marder
Senior Vice President, Custom Services

Rate Setting by Insurance and Exchanges

By Truven Staff
Anita Nair-Hartman imageAs the October 2013 open enrollment date for insurance marketplaces approaches, more information is emerging on how states are managing the premium rates set by health insurers. Maryland is an example. As a recent Washington Post article noted, this state is working diligently to ensure affordability for consumers in its market.

Questions remain: How easily does the open enrollment work for consumers? And are states or the federal government able to support consumers as they navigate the healthcare maze and try to understand their out-of-pocket costs and assess the best plans for their situation? Consumer understanding of plan design options and their associated costs, as well as their subsidies, will be the ultimate test of the work states and federal government did to keep rates low. We’ll know in October whether consumers were adequately supported

Anita Nair-Hartman
Vice President Market Planning and Strategy