UK Partners with Comprehensive Health Insights for Big Data, Collaborative Research

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 30, 2013) – The University of Kentucky has signed an agreement with Comprehensive Health Insights (CHI), a wholly owned outcomes research subsidiary of Humana Inc., to allow UK and CHI to share data for educational and research purposes and collaborate on research initiatives to improve health outcomes. To the best of both parties’ knowledge, this is the first such partnership between an insurer-owned research institute and an academic institution.

Formally initiated in June 2013, the agreement leverages CHI’s enormous amount of health insurance claims data and UK’s expert community of health services and outcomes researchers. CHI will provide Humana’s 2007-2011 claims data to UK for educational and research purposes. These data fields include eligibility, medical claims and lab data — which have been de-identified to render the member anonymous —  for approximately 12 million lives that were covered by Humana during that period. Such “big data” are a unique and highly valuable asset for health services students and faculty across the UK campus, who can access the information for teaching, research, theses and dissertations.

“Big data is our strategic resource because of the immense knowledge we can learn from it,” said Jeffery Talbert, director of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, and the co-director of the Biomedical Informatics Core for the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science. “Big data is important because we now have informatics tools to extract information and do analysis that we haven’t been able to do before. And we can also use it to tell us how well we’re translating scientific discovery into practice.”

UK will also be able to involve employees of CHI for student training purposes, such as giving lectures and serving on thesis or dissertation committees.

Another key objective of the agreement is collaborative research efforts in areas of mutual interest, with the aim of improving healthcare and health outcomes for patients. A Collaboration Governance Committee, with voting representatives from both UK and CHI, will determine priorities for research collaborations. UK will include CHI services and/or data in new grant applications, and UK and CHI consult and cooperate in the development of applications.  Such collaboration will ideally allow both UK and CHI to expand their options for research grants, because UK will have access to CHI’s extensive amounts of claims data and CHI will have a not-for-profit academic partner.

Part of CHI’s mission is to put evidence in the public domain by publishing the results of its research, which is sometimes easier and more credible with an academic partner. “When you work on publically funded grants and when you work with universities, there’s more of an obligation to make sure that what you’re doing is shared with the scientific community,” said Sarah Priddy, director of research at CHI. “We have a great interest in getting that information out because, in some respects, until research is peer reviewed it isn’t necessarily credible. It gives a level of scientific rigor to the work that we’re doing.”

The idea for the collaboration originated in informal discussions between William Fleming, president of Humana Pharmacy Solutions and a graduate of UK’s College of Pharmacy, and Talbert. They jointly began to consider how Humana and UK’s College of Pharmacy could collaborate in their overlapping areas of work, especially since Humana employs many graduates of UK’s College of Pharmacy.

“Pairing Humana's clinical expertise and rich, de-identified patient data with UK’s history and experience across many disease states allows us to maximize the potential benefits for patient care and savings," said Fleming. "By leveraging our collective capabilities, we can work to address the critical health care needs facing Kentucky and our country."

UK and Humana are both major medical players in the state of Kentucky, and the hope is that collaboration will create real improvements in care and health outcomes. “We want the same thing at the end of the day: a well patient,” said Priddy. “We’re coming together around ultimately making the lives of people better.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Mallory Powell,