UPMC Enterprises Spins Out Digital Healthcare Quality Company

Feb. 4, 2021
UPMC Health Plan abstractors found they can work up to 38 times faster with the implementation of Astrata’s NLP-assisted tools, according to the organization

UPMC Enterprises, the innovation and commercialization arm of the Pittsburgh-based University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has incubated and launched Astrata, a digital healthcare quality company. Astrata uses advanced analytics and natural language processing (NLP) to improve value-based care, according to officials who made an announcement this week.

Astrata and its team of data scientists developed cloud-based NLP technologies that aim to allow health insurers to analyze unstructured clinical data more efficiently. This solution generates real-time insights, with the goal to assess quality of care and population health more accurately against Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures. Both government and private healthcare payors are increasingly aligning provider compensation to such measures, officials noted.

“Traditionally, health insurers use claims information to evaluate healthcare quality against HEDIS measures. A wealth of additional information is available in medical charts, but it goes uncaptured because the process to extract it is labor-intensive, expensive and unscalable to entire populations,” said Rebecca Jacobson, M.D., president of Astrata. “Astrata’s unique technology serves as a catalyst for the transition our industry is experiencing and ultimately aims to help health care payors and providers use all the data at their disposal to improve the health of the population as a whole.”

Jacobson founded Astrata in conjunction with UPMC Enterprises. Last year, the company was selected to participate in an exclusive working group assembled by the National Committee for Quality Assurance to determine how NLP can be implemented to improve healthcare quality measurement.

Astrata partnered with UPMC Health Plan, which serves 3.9 million members, to develop and validate its technology. For many important HEDIS measures, healthcare organizations currently are able to determine their quality rates only once at the end of the year through a manual process, but Astrata’s technology enables year-round monitoring and quality improvement efforts at scale, officials noted.

“Over the last two years, UPMC Health Plan abstractors found they can work up to 38 times faster with the implementation of Astrata’s NLP-assisted tools,” said Diane Holder, president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan. “This partnership facilitates a more rapid and accurate flow of thorough, meaningful data between our quality team and our providers.”

Additionally, Astrata is piloting a real-time NLP monitoring platform with UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, focusing first on a HEDIS measure that identifies older women with bone fractures who have not yet received appropriate imaging and intervention for osteoporosis. Identifying candidates for screening often is delayed by months because it relies on claims-based data. But Astrata’s tools use NLP to read provider notes and identify members in need of intervention within hours of the fracture occurring, UPMC leaders stated.

Initial findings from this pilot, which began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, show UPMC Health Plan members signing up for screenings at higher rates after the implementation of Astrata’s technology, possibly because it enabled a UPMC Health Plan representative to contact members more quickly, officials hypothesized.

“As a 40-hospital health system serving millions of patients across three states, UPMC is always looking for ways to work with our providers and UPMC Health Plan to elevate the quality of care our patients receive. Our work with Astrata to date is only the beginning of understanding how NLP can help us achieve this goal,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality officer, UPMC.

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