GE Uses MEPS Data to Help Consumers Understand Costs of Chronic Conditions

August 2012

To help give consumers a better understanding of health care costs, GE created a data visualization tool that combines data from AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) a set of large-scale surveys of families and individuals, their medical providers, and employers with 500,000 records from GE's electronic medical records database.

The tool, "The Cost of Getting Sick," gives a more complete picture of the costs associated with chronic conditions and shows where money is spent to manage these diseases at various ages. Ben Fry, founder of Fathom, a data visualization firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed the tool for GE in 2009.

Aimee Atkinson is the head of Brand and Data Visualization at GE and the company's leader for the visualization initiative. She says, "GE believes that data visualization is a powerful way to simplify and advance our shared understanding of the issues shaping our lives: health, energy, and the economy." In developing the tool, GE chose MEPS because it is a complete data source on the cost and use of health care and health insurance coverage.

"The Cost of Getting Sick" helps consumers understand the costs of care and is presented with sections representing 10 chronic diseases: acid reflux, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, depression, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. By providing health-related data in a meaningful and easy-to-understand way, GE hopes health care consumers can better understand and learn from existing health challenges.

The information in the tool includes:

  • Yearly cost of managing an average person's condition.
  • Total cost to the system.
  • How much cost is borne by insurances companies versus individuals.
  • Data by age.

Atkinson adds, "Data visualization can be an incredibly useful business and communication tool, but it fundamentally depends on access to great data. We were fortunate to have access to the MEPS data for the development of "The Cost of Getting Sick" because they provide such a comprehensive look at health care costs at both the individual and aggregate level."

"The Cost of Getting Sick" is available at

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)
Topics(s): Business, Consumer Health, Costs
Geographic Location: National
Implementer: GE
Date: 08/01/2012
Page last reviewed August 2012