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Seema Verma rolls out new CMS interoperability initiatives at HIMSS18

The government-wide MyHealthEData initiative is led by the White House Office of American Innovation.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

LAS VEGAS – Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, with help from Jared Kushner, director of The White House Office of American Innovation, on Tuesday announced several new initiatives for interoperability. For data to flow freely, she said there would an overhaul of meaningful use, and the full ballroom at HIMSS18 broke into applause.

"We're changing to a new era of empowered consumers. We are about putting patients first and making sure patients have access to their healthcare data. You're hearing that from the White House too," Verma said in a post-speech meeting with reporters. "We're very clear that patients should have their data and access to it in a timely manner because that will increase quality, duplication, testing."

The Trump Administration has developed a plan for greater interoperability, Kushner said. 

Verma said the administration is looking for a healthcare ecosystem where data flows freely.

"I call on all insurers to give patients their claims data electronically,"  Verma said.  

CMS also launched MyHealthEData here at HIMSS18 to get healthcare information into the hands of patients faster. 

[Also: Jared Kushner says 'Trump administration has a new plan for interoperability']

The initiative will ensure that patients receive a copy of their entire health record electronically. It will be done through program interfaces, or APIs, she said.

"CMS believes the future of healthcare depends on the development of open APIs," she said. "We need more payment data."

CMS will act as a convener for APIs across the digital system that also connects to patients' claims data. 

"Beneficiaries will have complete control to how and when their data is used," Verma said.

Verma said CMS is also taking steps to make sure hospitals are not involved in data blocking.

"It's not acceptable to limit patient records or prevent them from seeing their complete history outside of (that) health system," she said.

CMS Chief Medical Officer Kate Goodrich, MD, said that under the 21st Century Cures Act EHR vendors and hospitals have to attest that they are not engaged in information blocking. Verma said that the agency is still working to determine what the penalties for such activity will be. 

Verma also said the government wants a  complete overhaul of meaningful use and said the agency will post a series of proposed rules to change the program that are open to public comment by year's end. 

"The idea is moving away from giving credit to physicians for just having an EHR to making sure its focused," Verma said. 

What's more, CMS is overhauling the evaluation and management codes that physicians use to bill for patient visits, to make it easier to use EHRs, she said.  

Blue Button is being upgraded to Blue Button 2.0, to give patients greater control of their health information.

From the start, the Trump Administration has wanted to drive whole-of-government solutions through the informed use of data, Kushner said. 

"The Trump administration is making citizen access to health records and interoperability a top priority," he said.

This includes medical records for veterans. 

"I could not understand why medical records from the Department of Defense could not be seamlessly transferred to the Veterans Administration," Kushner said.

They are now creating a path to integration, he said.

Healthcare costs are rising, Verma said, but unlike an ATM or credit card purchase, healthcare services are financially difficult for a patient to track.

"One of the most common complaints from patients and providers is the inefficiency of EHRs to effectively coordinate care for their patients," Verma said.

Medical information is still being faxed and patients are given CD-ROMs.

If she asked those in the audience how many gold medals the United States won at the Olympics, everyone who is looking at their cell phones could get that information in seconds, she said. But you can't as quickly get information on when you had your last physical.

"We cannot effectively transition to a value-based system unless we transfer all of the clinical and payment data to a point of care," Verma said. "I know I will get better care if doctors have all my information."

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Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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