Blue Cross Blue Shield Association partnership opens up commercial insurance data to researchers


Academic researchers will be able to access a vast new trove of claims data thanks to a partnership between the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and several of the country’s top medical schools.

Through the Blue Cross Blue Shield Alliance for Health Research, BCBSA will provide access to de-identified claims data generated through commercial insurance plans to some of the nation’s foremost health researchers, according to an announcement. Currently, researchers at Harvard, Yale and the Scripps Translational Science Institute are using BCBSA data to conduct research about the use of opioids and opioid prescribing, the value of cancer screenings and the impact of biologics on health outcomes.

Researchers said the new claims data would offer more detailed information about healthcare delivery and provide them with a closer look at how to best care for chronically ill patients.

“The purpose of the Alliance is to leverage the breadth of BCBS data to enable richer analytics, sharper insights and smarter solutions for improving healthcare quality and affordability,” Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for BCBSA, said in the announcement. “We look forward to working with the nation’s top researchers to make healthcare work better for everyone.”

BCBSA has emerged as a leading proponent for data collection and aggregation. Last year, the insurer announced that all 36 member companies would contribute cost and quality information to a new massive database. At a more local level, Tennessee’s Blues plan has been using data to identify preventive care caps and improve outreach to consumers who would benefit from routine screenings and tests.

Other insurers have taken steps to make claims data more actionable for providers and improve primary care services.