CMS looking to leverage data for health outcomes


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hopes to build on its recent release of hospital billing data with more Medicare data transparency. The agency has already done much to advance open data, said Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari.

"We have been, I think, strong supporters of making available data sets as part of meaningful use, part of our certification products and others available, and working with the developer community to make good use of the open data," said Mostashari during a July 17 Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Right now CMS is sharing data through public use files, which contain geographic data on variation in the use and quality of healthcare services for Medicare recipients, and healthcare comparison tools such as HospitalCompare; but there are other ways it may expand the use of CMS data to drive health outcomes, said Patrick Conway, acting director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. He added that he is open to working with the Senate on proposed legislation that would stand up a searchable claims database that could make providers more accountable.

On June 18, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), reintroduced the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (S.1180) which aims to make Medicare claims data more transparent. 

But opening and interpreting vast amounts of Medicare data requires a coordinated effort, said Conway.

"In terms of database development, we're actually working across government from NIH, to ARC, to others on what would be the infrastructure to collect data to inform care for children," said Conway.

While infrastructure is necessary, data sharing may not come in the form of a single, central database, said Mostashari. For example, children's hospitals have worked together to share pediatric chronic condition data and coordinate around clinical trials.

"It's really a model for what we hope to be able to do for adults and it's one of the goals, I think of not having a single, centralized database of patient information, but rather having networks of organizations and institutions that can collaborate together," said Mostashari.

"We're working on the standards for that to be able to share that information and working with patient-centered outcomes research institute to create that data infrastructure for distributed research, as opposed to combining information in one database," he added.

For more:
- go to the hearing page (includes prepared testimony and archived webcast)
- view S.1180 in THOMAS

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