ORNL researcher proposes to use supers to identify health care fraud

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Government Computer News carried a story last week about a proposal from a computer scientist at Oak Ridge to put Jaguar to use processing — or at least analysing — healthcare claims looking for fraud

Combining and analyzing health care data in real time could save as much as $50 billion a year by eliminating waste and preventing fraud in government-run health care programs, and also could improve the quality of medical care, said Andrew Loebl, a senior researcher in the lab’s Computational Science and Engineering Division.

“We have never put all of this data together,” Loebl said. “My idea is to use the storage capacity of the supercomputers at Oak Ridge to analyze the data.”

$50B is a lot of money, and if he can get anyone in the fairly staid healthcare bureucracy to listen to him (no mean feat), he may get a taker. As a citizen I don’t like all that data being in one place, but then again if my taxes went down as a result it might be worth it.

Currently, the government uses five regional contractors to process claims for a variety of health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and programs run by agencies including the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, Indian Health Services, the Federal Employee Benefits Health Plan and others. The data is disaggregated for processing, and broken down geographically and to allow processing with limited capacity computers. Consequently, no one sees or understands all of the data

….That is the hurdle faced by the proposed program. Convincing agencies to combine traditionally siloed data into a single flow for processing on a single computer could be tough.

Let’s assume we can get around privacy concerns; despite Loebl’s assertion that real-time processing of all healthcare claims in the federal government wouldn’t interrupt science…

The processing would not interrupt the climate modeling or other advanced research being done on Jaguar, Loebl said.

…I’m not sold. The missions are fundamentally different — accounting vs. science — and you run a production enterprise accounting resource differently than you run a science resource. Those conflicts in operational status would inevitably cause choices to be made that would probably favor the dollar today versus the discovery tomorrow (I’ve been there, done that).And for my part I’m suspicious that the work is as low effort as Loebl claims.

Even if it is, then one set of answers will lead to a new set of questions, and the healthcare problem with its immediate payoff in actual dollars will eat up Jaguar with its longer-time science mission. It’s a bad idea to cross the streams.

Better to propose a new “Health Care Fraud Prevention Center” and house it in the acres of machine room space they have up there directly connected to the TVA than to mix the missions.


  1. … The reason you are “not sold” is that it is a silly idea proffered by a nincompoop. Loebl has a long history of coming up with stupid projects that are gonna put jaguar to good use. Most of the time, he can be ignored and sort of laughed at, but, recently, he got himself on the local TV news promulgating this particular hare-brained scheme (BTW, this is so NOT the silliest idea he has advertised). I have now wasted several seconds of my life thinking and writing about this idiot, time I will never get back…

  2. @Tired – thanks for the comment. I love a commenter not shy about his/her/its views. 🙂

    Oh, and I’ll keep an eye out for Loebl in the future. Crazy ideas make for great stories.