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New CMS Dashboard the Start of More Health Cost, Quality Transparency

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, April 9, 2010

A public Web site introduced this week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a dashboard that will permit tracking of how much is spent on Medicare patients in hospitals for many treated illnesses and conditions. But, under a transparency push at the federal level, expect to see more CMS data being made available this year.

The new site is one of the Department of Health and Human Services' efforts in response to the White House's Open Government Directive, issued on Dec. 8, 2009, to open up and publish its data for public review and analysis.

The new interactive CMS "dashboard" made a debut in beta mode this week and is aimed at helping the public visualize and analyze Medicare spending. It includes a limited set of diagnosis related groups (DRGs) and hospitals paid under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS).

Each DRG has a payment weight assigned to it--based on the average resources used to treat Medicare patients in that DRG. The data in the beta version includes inpatient discharges from January 2006 to December 2009; future releases will refresh and update CMS program data.

CMS' multi faceted "new transparency push" will provide the additional release of data:

  • Creation of nine Medicare claim "basic files"--one for each major category of healthcare service, to be released from September to December 2010 for free public download on Data.gov. These files, which will be de-identified, will contain a limited number of variables and configurations.
  • Creation of improved user interfaces and analytical tools for viewing existing CMS COMPARE data on quality performance of hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and dialysis centers.
  • Release of detailed Medicaid State Plan documents and amendments on the CMS Web site, which will be published by the end of 2010.
  • Release of new national, state, regional, and county level data on Medicare prevalence of disease, quality, costs, and service utilization, as part of HHS' Community Health Data Initiative by the end of 2010.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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