The uses of patient health care data are diverse. The context of data creation is the treatments involved in caring for the patient. The care, in turn, generates payment processing and insurance claims; operations and quality management within organizations such as hospitals, clinics and related business units; health care research using randomized clinical trials; comparative analyses of medical as well as financial results across multiple enterprises; and the performance of health care providers.

The performance of providers across a variety of health care and financial metrics is receiving intense attention. Why? With health care services hitting nearly 15 percent of the gross domestic product of the U.S. and costs to payers, employers and consumers rising at double digit rates, one of the financial mechanisms that promises to provide tools needed to bring costs under control is “pay-for-performance.” However, benchmarking medical group practice performance faces obstacles such as the absence of consistent, unified and conformed patient outcome results. Standards are useful, but there are so many of them. Each data source has its own set of standards and formats, resulting in a formidable array of clinical and operational data (see Figure 1).

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