Andy Slavitt & Vindell Washington on data in healthcare: 'We still have a lot of work to do'

In a CMS blog post, ONC National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington, MD, and CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt discussed recent accomplishments and potential next steps for the federal agency to take to meet clinicians' data needs.

Here are five things to know.

1. The percentage of office-based physicians with EHRs has doubled since 2008, and in 2015, more than 77 percent of office-based physicians reported using a certified EHR. Dr. Washington and Mr. Slavitt write that these trends have made it easier to begin using data, by ensuring it is accessible in a secure digital format.

2. Data sharing has posed a major obstacle; however, Dr. Washington and Mr. Slavitt hope that the recent passage of the 21st Century Cures Act will encourage progress. The legislation comments on the issue in several provisions; for example, it prohibits information blocking and authorizes penalties of up to $1 million for the offense.

3. In addition to overt information blocking, lack of interoperability has stymied data analytics progress, as the average physician practice now contracts with 12 different insurers, according to the blog post. To address this issue, Dr. Washington and Mr. Slavitt suggest health IT developers make it easier for clinicians to share data between their EHRs and other applications, for example, through the use of standard application programming interfaces.

4. Another potential solution to lack of data sharing includes greater transparency and consolidation of data, through efforts like state All Payer Claims Databases and Medicare Qualified Entities. These initiatives bring together data from various payers to provide stakeholders with one place for data, while streamlining the process for payers to make data available.

5. For quality measurement, a key challenge has been standardizing what patient data is collected and how it is reported across payers. Moving forward, Dr. Washington and Mr. Slavitt suggest ONC and CMS might develop related tools, such as libraries of data elements, along with building on efforts like the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network and the Core Quality Measurement Collaborative to increase clinicians' access to aggregated data measurements.

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