Information Bulletin, August 1996


SPARCS Data Submissions
1997 SPARCS Changes
SPARCS Update Process
Swing Beds

SPARCS Data Submissions

Overall compliance with the SPARCS data submission requirements has been excellent. Currently for the 1995 reporting year, 2,473,897 inpatient and 966,457 ambulatory surgery discharges have been submitted to SPARCS, representing approximately 98% of the records expected for that data year. Facilities should continue to submit corrections and additions for 1995 and any previous year's data, in order to prevent any adverse effects of data shortages.

Now that the major reporting effort for 1995 data is over for most facilities, we will be sending letters to those facilities that have fallen behind with their monthly 1996 submissions. The letters serve two purposes: as a reminder to facilities that the SPARCS regulations require that monthly submissions be made to SPARCS within 60 days following the month of patient discharge; they also encourage facilities to contact SPARCS regarding any submission difficulties they may be encountering. We are pleased to note that there has been a significant reduction in the number of letters mailed since last year, reflecting a continuing improvement in reporting compliance.

1997 SPARCS Changes

An announcement of the 1997 SPARCS changes was distributed to providers and their vendors in a packet dated July 17, 1996. Included below is a summary of the significant changes and enhancements:

  • The Unique Personal Identifier will be required for reporting all ambulatory surgery visits to SPARCS after December 31, 1996.

  • The National Uniform Billing Committee has established new national codes to identify Homeless and Foreign born patients. In keeping with our commitment to conform to national standards, SPARCS will collect these new condition codes effective January 1, 1997.

  • In an effort to collect more reliable commercial and managed care payer data, our existing Appendix K, "Commercial Insurance Company Numbers", has been radically changed in cooperation with the Department of Insurance and the DOH Office of Managed Care. The new Appendix K provides a standard code list for New York State in preparation for a proposed national standard.

  • In cooperation with the New York Health Information Management Association (NYHIMA) a set of Special Coding Conditions and Exceptions have been noted as problematic in SPARCS editing. A new appendix R has been created to document the corrective actions being taken to handle these special conditions and exceptions.
SPARCS Update Process

In the June 1996 Bulletin we announced development of a new update process for our master file, which would be available in early fall. This new process is designed to make our current tape-based system appear to be more like a real-time transaction system, thus making it easier and more logical for facilities to maintain their SPARCS data.

In order to implement the inpatient and outpatient processes simultaneously, the new update process will take effect in December 1996. This will mean for both inpatient and outpatient corrections or deletions, transactions may be submitted any time. A more detailed explanation of this new update process will be included in the next release of the SPARCS documentation due to be distributed in September.

Swing Beds

SPARCS has had numerous questions regarding the reporting of data from patients occupying a "swing bed". By department definition a swing bed allows a rural hospital to admit a non-acute care patient. Those hospital beds are classified as medical-surgical or not depending on who occupies the bed. Currently, the SPARCS edits require that all submissions have an acceptable acute care principal diagnosis code, which dictates when that swing bed information can be reported.

This is part of a larger issue NYHIMA recently raised at a recent Universal Data Set for Institutional Providers (UDS/IP) task force meeting in regards to the SPARCS edit for principal diagnosis codes. The SPARCS system currently collects only acute care cases, which is not, as NYHIMA maintains, a completely accurate representation of the business in hospitals today. Department program personnel are currently considering the need for a change in this policy.

Until there is an announced change in department policy, only the acute care services provided in swing beds must be reported to SPARCS.

As always we appreciate any feedback on this or other related issues. Your cooperation and feedback continues to be essential to collecting complete and accurate SPARCS data.