The latest release of data was applauded by researchers and developers attending Datapalooza, but one hospital cost analyst notes that the newly-released data still represents but a sliver of the total amount of data CMS should release eventually, and for now leaves the bulk of that work to application developers.
"I'm deliriously happy to see all of the transparency going on at this conference," says Jeanne Pinder, a former New York Times editor and now founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts.com, a healthcare cost search engine funded in part by the Tow-Knight Foundation. "It's only a fraction of what we need. It's a tiny fraction. It's not actionable, shoppable information that would help real-live consumers."
Pinder adds that every time a little bit more data is released, it begins another piece of a larger conversation. "Why does it look like this? Why is it so crazy? Why are the charges disconnected from the payments? Why can't we as real live human beings who are interested in making decisions about our health have real information? Ms. Sebelius is on the side of the angels, but we need more data."
Specifically, HHS built on the release last month of the average charges for the 100 most common inpatient procedures by releasing selected hospital outpatient data that includes estimates for average charges for 30 types of hospital outpatient procedures from hospitals across the country, such as clinic visits, echocardiograms, and endoscopies.
CMS also released new data sets for the first time at the county level: one on Medicare spending and utilization, and another on Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions. Both data sets will enable researchers, data innovators, and the public to better understand Medicare spending and service use, spurring innovation and increasing transparency, while protecting the privacy of beneficiaries. The data will also be available through an interactive state level dashboard based on the spending information, allowing users of any skill level to quickly access and use the data.