Information Bulletin, December 2002


Submission Issues
Year 2003 Changes Countdown
Massachusetts ED Collection Experiences
Data Validation
Holiday Greetings

Submission Issues

The Department of Health would like to thank all facilities for their continued cooperation during 2002. Once again the successful submission rate to SPARCS is above 99 percent. Each year our goal is to produce the annual report for the previous year within 6 months of the June due date. We are happy to report that our year 2001 annual report is currently being created and will be available soon on our web site and in hard copy upon request. As in the past, the narrative of the 2001 SPARCS Annual Report will contain a list of facilities with reporting problems. It is important that users of the report have an accurate picture of the data completeness before drawing any conclusions based on the data. Stay tuned to future Bulletins for news announcing the availability of the 2001 SPARCS Annual Report.

The DOS-based SPARCS application, SPARCS5, is currently being enhanced to support the new year changes to the outpatient submission requirements. The next release will be version 5.11. We anticipate the updated software will be available for download on our public web before the end of January. Anyone willing to beta test the 5.11 version of the SPARCS5 software or with any questions should contact the SPARCS Administrative staff.

Year 2003 Changes Countdown

As one last reminder, there are changes to the SPARCS system for 2003. Before the end of 2003 in compliance with state legislation, we will begin collecting emergency department data from all hospitals regulated by the ew York State Department of Health. The changes to the current ambulatory surgery system are an incremental first step toward the mandate of collecting emergency department data later in 2003. After the ball drops in Times Square, all reports for ambulatory surgery visits discharged in 2003 will need to be reported with the additional fields. Those new fields will also be required when facilities begin submitting emergency department discharges to SPARCS. We are open for business to test at your convenience. Remember we will accept tests in either Version 5, Version 6, or the ANSI ASC X12N 837 (for those that are brave) formats. Please contact your friendly SPARCS administrative unit support person to help you test the 2003 changes to the SPARCS outpatient submissions. We are looking forward to the end of February and the beginning of March when testing for emergency department data collection will begin. With your cooperation, we anticipate that the emergency department data will be of high quality from the very first submission file later in 2003.

Massachusetts ED Collection Experiences

Our colleagues in Massachusetts are about one year ahead of us in the collection of emergency department data in their state discharge system. With their permission we are including some tidbits of information discovered from preliminary analysis of their emergency department data. We foresee future bulletins will have tidbits of information derived from our own emergency department database. For now, thank you to our colleagues in Massachusetts for giving us a glimpse into our future data analysis potential.

"As we knew from the cost reports, ED visit volume has been increasing since FY 2000. However, what's interesting is that visits vary by quarter, and in many hospitals peak in the summer (July-September). This is surprising since it is the opposite pattern of inpatient hospitalizations, which peak in the winter (January-March), with flu, pneumonia, etc. This adds intriguing new information for understanding why we're seeing increases in ambulance diversions all year round."

"The average length of outpatient ED visits has also been increasing noticeably over the January 2000 to March 2002 time period, from about 1.7 to just over 2.0 hours in those hospitals for which we have complete data. It is unknown exactly what may be causing this."

Data Validation

Data Validation is an important function of the SPARCS unit. SPARCS data is linked with other data sources within the Department to find secondary sources as a quality assurance measure. One such source is the annual Institutional Cost Report (ICR) submitted by the facilities to the Bureau of Primary and Acute Care Reimbursement. From the 2000 ICR counts we learned that the SPARCS patient days count is 4.0% less than the ICR. We also learned that this deviation is caused by a small number of facilities with significant discrepancies between SPARCS and ICR data. If you want to know the comparison for your facility, please contact the SPARCS administrative unit.

Holiday Greetings

The entire SPARCS staff would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. This past year the ground work for the first significant change in the SPARCS system since we migrated to the UB-92 in 1994 has been well prepared through collaboration and cooperation with our New York State institutional health care partners. We appreciate the industry support for enhancements to the SPARCS system that we anticipate will help us continue to work together toward the mutual goal of improving the quality of health care in our Empire State.