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Arizona Health Query uses SAS® to create a unique community health data system


Comprehensive state database improves care and empowers researchers

CARY, NC – A model collaboration between academia and the healthcare community is benefiting Arizona communities and citizens, thanks to advanced analytics software from business analytics leader SAS. The Arizona Health Query database (AZHQ) is using SAS® software to integrate and analyze millions of anonymized healthcare records. Analyzing data over time and across health systems, researchers identify specific community health needs, inform public policy and, ultimately, lower costs.

Created by Arizona State University’s Center for Health Information and Research (CHiR), AZHQ consolidates health information from dozens of healthcare organizations in Arizona to form a community health data system. Previously, patient data was spread across different healthcare providers, which hindered effective research of community health issues. With more than 40 data partners, including the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) – the state’s Medicaid system – that is no longer an issue.

“With the participation of many public and private healthcare data partners, we’re able to apply SAS data integration and analytics capabilities to track patients over time and location, and identify trends and patterns in healthcare within and across communities,” said Wade Bannister, creator of the AZHQ database and Associate Director for CHiR.

Researchers have also used AZHQ to analyze health disparities in Hispanic and non-Hispanic children, the evolution of Valley fever, asthma patterns in Arizona, and the efficacy of hospitals in serving the needy. It has also been used to conduct community health assessments.

A good example of how AZHQ is affecting community health is the program’s study of MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics. By tracking the disease’s spread by zip code, researchers were able to postulate how and why it was spreading.

Since its inception, AZHQ has consolidated data on 9 million people and 200 million healthcare encounters, pulling data from more than 60 healthcare delivery institutions, including hospitals, insurers and employers. Patient privacy is paramount; AZHQ complies with HIPAA regulations and is regularly audited to ensure continuing compliance. AZHQ received the university’s President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness in 2005 and 2008.

SAS predictive analytics present an opportunity for cost savings, according to William Johnson, who founded AZHQ and directs CHiR. Using SAS, he and fellow researchers analyzed AHCCCS data to develop a model that predicts risk associated with future high-cost Medicaid users.

“By assessing risk factors and predicting costs of patient care years in advance, steps can be taken to alleviate costs through intervention and more informed budget decisions,” said Johnson.

“The breadth of data in the system makes it unique in the US,” said Johnson. “With the advanced research capabilities we have, we’re confident our partnership with the community impacts Arizona healthcare in a very positive way.”

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. With innovative business applications supported by an enterprise intelligence platform, SAS helps customers at 45,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know®


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