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HPC DataPoints Series

A series of online briefs that spotlight new research and data findings relevant to the HPC's mission to drive down the cost of health care. 
HPC DataPoints


HPC DataPoints showcases brief overviews and interactive graphics on relevant health policy topics. The analysis underlying these briefs is conducted by HPC research staff. As you read through HPC DataPoints, we encourage you to engage with the interactive graphics by hovering your mouse over different data points to obtain additional information. We recommend using Internet Explorer to display the interactive graphics. 

Issue 8: Urgent Care Centers and Retail Clinics (August 9, 2018)

  • The number of retail clinics in Massachusetts nearly tripled from 20 in 2010 to 57 in 2018. The number of urgent care centers increased eight-fold from 18 in 2010 to 145 at the end of 2017.
  • The average ED visit costs just under $900 with a patient copayment averaging $118, compared to the average urgent care center cost of $149 with patient copayments averaging $33, and $69 at retail clinics with patient copayments averaging $20.
  • Sore throats and acute sinusitis accounted for 30 percent of the conditions that retail clinics saw during visits. Urgent care centers treated a wider range of conditions but also saw sore throats (and upper respiratory infections a close second) as the top condition for visits.

Issue 7: Variation in Imaging Spending (May 4, 2018)

  • Massachusetts ranks as the 4th highest spending state for imaging services with $892 in annual costs per Medicare beneficiary, 14 percent higher than the U.S. average. This is a contributing factor to higher overall health care costs in Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts has relatively high facility use for imaging procedures, ranking 18th among states.
  • Prices are typically more than twice as high when the service is provided in a hospital outpatient department or other facility, compared to the same service performed in a doctor’s office or other non-facility setting. For example, the average price in Massachusetts for an MRI of the brain with contrast was more than twice as expensive at a facility setting ($699), compared to a non-facility setting ($337).

Issue 6: Provider Organization Performance Variation (March 1, 2018)

  • After adjusting for differing health needs, spending for patients in the highest-cost organization was 32 percent higher than in the lowest-cost organization. 
  • Among categories of service, hospital outpatient services saw the greatest spending variation, both in total spending and across provider groups. 
  • Patients whose PCPs are associated with the Southcoast Health System are from the lowest-income areas in the state and have the highest health risk, 9 percent above the statewide average. These patients also had the highest rates of hypertension (18.5 percent), cardiovascular disease (15.6 percent), and diabetes (6.7 percent).

Issue 5: Quality Measurement Misalignment in Massachusetts (January 10, 2018)

  • The three largest MA commercial payers vary in their scope of quality measure use in APM contracts; one payer reported use of 26 measures in at least ten APM contracts while the others reported use of over 40 measures in at least ten APM contracts.
  • Only 17 quality measures are used in at least ten APM contracts by all three payers, including two common outcome measures.

Issue 4: The growing opioid epidemic in Massachusetts hospitals (July 26, 2017)

  • Between 2014 and 2015, the number of opioid-related hospital (ED and inpatient) discharges grew drastically, by 18%.
  • A new, interactive map displays the rate of opioid-related hospital discharges by zip code and provides new insights into the disproportionate impact of the opioid epidemic on certain residents, communities, and hospitals.
  • Young adults experienced the sharpest increase in discharges, rising by 192% from 2011 to 2015.

Issue 3: The ACA’s Preventative Coverage Mandate and MA (June 26, 2017)

  • Average out-of-pocket spending by women for prescription drugs declined 14.2% from 2011-2014.

Issue 2: Avoidable Emergency Department Use in Massachusetts (May 23, 2017)

  • 42% of all ED visits in Massachusetts in 2015 were avoidable with fairly consistent rates throughout the Commonwealth in 2015.

Issue 1: Update on preventable oral health ED visits in MA (April 27, 2017)

  • The HPC identified 33,467 oral health ED visits in Massachusetts in 2015.
  • The HPC found a five-fold regional variation in the number of oral health ED visits per population.


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