CMS makes Medicare Advantage encounter data available for first time ever

CMS is making Medicare Advantage encounter data available to researchers to better understand care trends for seniors, Administrator Seema Verma announced April 26.

Researchers already have access to Medicare claims data for the fee-for-service program, CMS noted, but this expansion of MA data availability will provide deeper, more valuable insights into the care provided to Medicare beneficiaries, as well as how they make their healthcare decisions.

"We recognize that the MA data is not perfect, but we have determined that the quality of the available MA data is adequate enough to support research," Ms. Verma said during the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C., according to the Washington Examiner. "And although this is our first release, going forward, we plan to make this data available annually. And we're not stopping with MA data."

CMS released preliminary encounter data, starting with calendar year 2015, and next year the agency plans to release data from Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program — giving researchers access to 70 million patients' information.

However, the information would not personally identify patients and researchers would be required to request it via a proposal.

The effort is part of CMS' new Data Driven Patient Care strategy, announced April 26 and rolled under its MyHealthEData initiative. The approach had three core tenets: putting patients first, adopting an "API-first approach to data sharing" and increasing the amount of available data. It is part of the agency's push toward interoperability, which also includes CMS' Blue Button 2.0 and Promoting Interoperability program, the most recent iteration of meaningful use.

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