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How to overcome SPARCS data changes: 3 most common challenges

SPARCS data changes

This October 100% of Q1 2023 data is due to the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System of New York State. Whether you receive a Statement of Deficiency or not, you may be wondering if there are better ways to manage SPARCS data changes.

It’s not uncommon for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to experience challenges with SPARCS submissions, specifically with data updates and staying compliant. Even the most experienced, full-time SPARCS coordinator can have difficulties keeping up.                                                           

In this blog, we’ll outline how SPARCS requirements can change, submission error consequences and solutions to overcome these challenges. Before we dive in, let’s quickly review the history of SPARCS and its data changes.                                                                                           

What is SPARCS and how does it change?

The New York State Department of Health defines SPARCS as a comprehensive all-payer data reporting system. It requires hospitals and ASCs to submit clinical, billing, admission, discharge and transfer data. This often changes due to new state rules, changing formats and updated codes.

3 SPARCS data challenges and their solutions

Challenge 1: Data needs are diverse, and sources change daily

Healthcare data changes rapidly, from daily FDA drug and device codes to updated diagnostic codes. Conversely, the state only updates SPARCS data quarterly but changes reporting, quality and compliance mandates frequently — all while expecting error-free data at point of submission and in trends over time.

New York’s SPARCS updates to the injury, cause and place code data remediation project released in April is a perfect example. A broken arm corresponds to a single diagnostic code, but the state requires patient trend data that includes where and how the break took place. Because facilities must submit these requirements, having missing cause and place data is a large, well-known pain point.

Challenge 2: Health information managers bear multiple responsibilities

Most facilities have a dedicated SPARCS coordinator, but the word dedicated is misleading. Hospital and ASC health information managers have multiple responsibilities. Tracking down SPARCS updates is just one. Something as simple as a ZIP code error can lead to a SPARCS submission rejection on reimbursement claims that insurers have already paid.

The effect on revenue cycle performance can be cumulative and significant. There is already a workforce shortage. In addition, hospitals and ASCs face significant financial pressures from reimbursement cutbacks, insurer payment policies and value-based care demands.

Challenge 3: EHRs can’t validate data directly

EHR vendors often sell their systems as one-stop shops for compliance reporting, but this isn’t often the case for SPARCS.

EHRs can send data directly to SPARCS but cannot validate it. This can begin what feels like an endless cycle of data corrections and resubmissions, assuming the facility can identify and fix every error.

What are the consequences? New York state can deny Certificate of Needs requests and assess monthly fines as high as $10,000 per patient type until a hospital or ASC submits fully accurate SPARCS data.

Don’t wait for deficiencies: Get a solution today!

SPARCS deadlines are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you have to tackle them alone. There are data solutions available that take formatting, syncing and error sweeping out of the equation — like DataGen’s UDS (UIS Data System™).

We’ll be the extra analyst on your team, ensuring 100% submission accuracy no matter how often requirements change. Plus, our system automatically loads code updates for you. This way you don’t have to worry about updating hundreds of new codes every quarter. Contact us today to free up your time or request a demo.

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