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CMS Unveils Patient Data Access Initiatives

News  |  By John Commins  
   March 06, 2018

Commercial health plans urged to follow federal government's lead, provide patients access and portability to digital claims data. Overhaul for Meaningful Use, end of data blocking in the works.  

The federal government on Tuesday unveiled two initiatives designed to improve patients' access and control over their personal electronic medical records, and also pledged to overhaul Meaningful Use and refocus on data interoperability and ease of use among providers.

Under the MyHealthEData initiative, patients will have access to their complete electronic health record, which they can take from doctor to doctor, choose the provider they want, and give that provider secure access to their data, leading to greater competition and reducing costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said.

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Under a second initiative, Medicare has launched Blue Button 2.0, which allows traditional Medicare beneficiaries to access and share personal health data in a universal digital format, and connect claims data to the secure applications, providers, and services they trust.

CMS said the initiative will reduce testing duplications and improve continuity of care, and generate competition among technology companies to find better ways to use claims data to serve patients.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma unveiled the initiatives on Tuesday in Las Vegas at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society,

"CMS serves more than 130 million beneficiaries through our programs, which means we are uniquely positioned to transform how important healthcare data is shared between patients and their doctors," Verma said.

She urged private sector health insurers that contract through Medicare Advantage to follow CMS’s lead and give patients access to their claims data "because enabling patients to control their Medicare data so that they can quickly obtain and share it is critical to creating more patient empowerment."

Verma said that more than 100 organizations are designing applications for Blue Button 2.0 that will help these patients manage their health.

Meaningful Use Overhaul

Additionally, CMS plans to overhaul its Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs to refocus on interoperability, improve the clinician experience, and reduce the time and cost for providers to comply with programs requirements.

The overall retools documentation requirements of Evaluation and Management codes to make it easier for providers to use their EHRs. That will include an update and streamlining for billing requirements “so that doctors can spend less time using their EHRs, and more time with their patients,” Verma said.

CMS is  also taking an aggressive stance against data blocking, and in some instances now requires hospitals and clinicians to show they’re not doing it.

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"Let me be crystal clear, the days of finding creative ways to trap patients in your system must end," Verma said. "It's not acceptable to limit patient records or to prevent them and their doctor from seeing their complete history outside of a particular healthcare system."

"Too many patients suffer from this lack of control, and it is the priority of this administration to ensure that every patient and their doctor can receive free and timely access to their electronic data," she said.  

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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