CMS opens data to entrepreneurs, innovators

CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt speaking at the 2015 Health Datapalooza. (FedScoop)

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will for the first time allow entrepreneurs and innovators to access all of its data, including long-sought Medicare claims data.

CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt announced the new policy Tuesday at the Health Data Consortium’s Health Datapalooza to a burst of applause. The move will give private companies access to data that previously had been limited to researchers.

“We are giving innovators access to CMS data to create tools that can be developed for the commercial marketplace,” Slavitt said. “We are aiming directly at shaking up health care innovation and setting a new standard for data transparency.”

According to a CMS press release, the data will de-identify patients but reveal providers of care. CMS will begin accepting requests from industry beginning in September. Those accepted will access the data through the centers’ Virtual Research Data Center, “which provides access to granular CMS program data, including Medicare fee-for-service claims data, in an efficient and cost effective manner,” the release said.

In the past, CMS has released some Medicare data to the public: Last month, it opened Medicare Part D data.

In his speech, the CMS administrator said he hoped companies “will create a new stream of tools that will improve care and personalize decision-making. We are allowing companies to combine CMS data with other data so that even what were small silos of data can have enough credibility to have meaning.”

“Historically, CMS has prohibited researchers from accessing detailed CMS data if they intended to use it to develop products or tools to sell,” Niall Brennan, CMS chief data officer, said in a statement. “However, as the delivery system transforms from rewarding volume to value, data will play a key role. We hope that this new policy will lead to additional innovation and insights from the CMS data.”

Slavitt also hopes this move will encourage others with proprietary data to follow suit. “We are allowing companies to combine CMS data with other data so that even what were small silos of data can have enough credibility to have meaning,” he said.

News about CMS opening its data came as part of a series of announcements Slavitt made at the large conference focused on liberating health data. He also said CMS would move to delivering data updates quarterly rather than annually.

“This will enable rapid, central feedback and provide an understanding of how the many interventions we’re engaged in are working,” Slavitt said, later referencing a need for a Moore’s Law-like effect on the health care industry. “In an information age it is just not acceptable that the most recent Medicare data available to researchers is from 2013.”

With the gift of the new data, Slavitt challenged private innovators to build tools that serve those with the most need, like the nearly 2 million people who represent about 5 percent of Medicare enrollees but who account for about half of the program’s costs.

“Don’t just build cool-factor gizmos for the healthiest and wealthiest,” he said. “Build products and services that actually help us take care of our country’s sickest and most-difficult-to-treat people. This is our greatest challenge and where the greatest opportunity for gain is.”

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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), data analytics, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Departments, Government IT News, Health data, Health IT, open data, open government, Tech
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