HOP Professor’s Research Proposal Awarded Informatics Institute Seed Fund

Chris Delcher, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, was recently selected to receive one-year, $50,000 seed funding for his research proposal, “New Collaboration to Increase the Development of Computable Phenotypes for Improving Health Outcomes.”

The award was made possible by the University of Florida Informatics Institute Seed Fund Program, whose faculty panels reviewed a total of 11 submitted proposals. Delcher’s proposal is one of six approved by the director of the Informatics Institute.

Aligning with the multidisciplinary research goals of the Informatics Institute, Delcher, along with faculty members from the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, aims to address the special needs of “superutilizers,” a group of Medicaid enrollees with complex, unaddressed health issues and a history of frequent encounters with health care providers.

By identifying common phenotypes, or observable traits linked to various environmental factors, among superutilizers, state Medicaid programs can use predictive analytics to better intervene and address the needs of this vulnerable population.

While the collaborative research primarily addresses the aforementioned superutilizers through the creation of computable, predictive algorithms, the research has two additional applications in identifying, characterizing, and predicting both unusual prescription drug-seeking patterns and providers who might be engaged in Medicaid fraud and abuse.

With this information, health care professionals and insurance providers will be able to better confront the issues within current health care policies that allow for doctor shopping and Medicare/Medicaid fraud and abuse.

“Approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population receives insurance from Medicaid or Medicare, and individuals in these programs are often among the most vulnerable in terms of health status, age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status,” said Delcher. “For Medicaid, about 15 percent of patients consume 70 percent of the health care dollars. While this 15 percent is largely comprised of disabled adults with co-occurring physical and mental health conditions and a high-risk for poor health-related quality of life, our research aims to prevent unnecessary admissions, readmissions, and repeat emergency department visits.”