Information Bulletin, December 1999


Welcome to the New Millennium
System Issues
Holiday Greeting

Welcome to the New Millennium

As we leave the 20th century behind and enter the 21st century, I want to take this opportunity to thank the health care community for continuing to make the partnership with SPARCS strong and productive. This numerical phenomenon called Y2K provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and anticipate a bright future.

Something Old

The SPARCS system was established based on the premise that standards are good. Before there was a national data standards mandate for health care transactions, the health care community in New York State agreed on the benefits of uniformity. That consensus resulted in the creation of the SPARCS system. The 20+-year partnership with the health care community has made it possible for New York State to assume a leadership role in the development of national data standards. The commitment to improve the delivery of health services in New York State has remained constant. The original architects of the SPARCS system understood the importance of accurate data in achieving that goal. We, the current caretakers of SPARCS, remain committed to that same goal.

The "C" in SPARCS stands for Cooperative. The data is collected with the cooperation of the provider community, and continues to be available with the cooperation of the New York State Department of Health. The use of SPARCS data for market analysis, research, utilization review, as well as for internal data maintenance needs continue to be part of the services provided by the Department to our data collection partners. Access to this information is available by contacting the Bureau of Biometrics or the SPARCS Administrative Unit for facilities requesting their own data.

One of the keys to the early success of the SPARCS system was an understanding of the importance to communicate system needs with the health care community. From the onset of the SPARCS system to now, there has been an active statewide data committee. The Universal Data Set for Institutional Providers (UDS/IP) task force is the group serving that function today. As technology evolves the available communication tools are becoming increasingly more robust. The development of the SPARCS Web pages and the e-mail electronic distribution list are current examples of ways the SPARCS system is using today's technology to constantly improve nature and substance of our communications with the health care community.

As we move forward into the new millennium, we should be proud of our past and always mindful of the lessons we learned along the way.

Something New

With the new millennium will come the HIPAA mandates. Final rules starting with the Health Transactions and Codes are expected within the next few months. SPARCS will implement these national standards. Through the work of the UDS/IP task force, the SPARCS implementation of the HIPAA standards will be coordinated with the payer community. Until the HIPAA standards are implemented, SPARCS will collect data using the UDS format. This format is derived from the HCFA EMC millennium-ready Version 5 flat file. It should be noted that as of January 1, 2000, SPARCS would no longer accept data in a Version 4 format, which is not year 2000 compliant. Facilities having year 2000 compliant issues should contact the SPARCS Administrative Unit.

We are encouraged and pleased with the positive response to date with the Internet Upload process, which provides appropriate access to a secured Department server for exchange of data. This process replaces the PCMAIL process, which will not be supported in year 2000. The Internet Upload process is designed to support a two-way flow of data. Reports that were formerly distributed electronically back to all facilities will now be distributed using the Internet Upload process. This means that even if you intend to continue sending us data via magnetic media, we will want to send YOU important system status reports. Those reports will only be distributed using the Internet Upload process. I want to thank those facilities already using this process. I want to encourage those who are not to contact the SPARCS Administrative Unit at your earliest convenience. Don't be the last on your block to use this new technology.

System Issues

The changes in the health delivery system brought about by organizational and payment issues have generated a need to clarify SPARCS data collection policies.

Organizational Issues

In the past few years there have been many organizational mergers that bring one or more health care facilities under the control of a single parent organization. The SPARCS regulations require discharge data be submitted for each service location as identified by the Permanent Facility Identifier (PFI). The ownership of each facility as identified by the Operating Certificate Number is irrelevant with regard to the SPARCS data collection requirements.

As a note to SPARCS Data Users, transfers within one parent organization are being reported inconsistently across the state. Differing facility information system configurations and designs report these transfers in one of two ways:

Two (2) discharges - an admission and discharge from each facility rendering service

One (1) discharge - an admission and discharge from the last facility rendering service within that parent organization

This issue is currently being discussed at the Department to determine if a change in policy is necessary. Current SPARCS policy is consistent with scenario one from above, which requires reporting at each service location.

Payment Issues

Observation days is a category of outpatient services that are being provided in New York State hospitals. These services are being paid differently than other hospital based services. Since SPARCS only has legislative authority to collect inpatient and ambulatory surgery data, patients admitted for observation services would not have to be reported to SPARCS. If, however, a patient is admitted for inpatient services but insurance payment was based on rates for observation services, SPARCS would expect inpatient data to be reported. The SPARCS data has always been based on services billed, rather than services paid. Hospitals providing a patient with inpatient services regardless of associated payment issues are required to report that encounter to SPARCS.

Holiday Greeting

The entire SPARCS staff would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. We hope your millennium bugs are small and your joys are great. Thank you for a wonderful 20th century.