March 4, 2019

CMS and the ONC Propose an End to Data Blocking

Bill Kotraba

Topic:   Industry Focus

In a long overdue move, government officials from CMS and the ONC kicked off HIMSS by outlining new proposed rules to stop data blocking from EHR vendors and others. After spending $38 billion to increase the rate of EHR adoption, government officials were tired of hearing about the bad actors among the EHR community.

The idea that patient data belongs to providers or vendors is an epic misunderstanding. Patient data belongs to patients. CMS Administrator Seema Verma

During HIMSS, much of the discussion centered on flowing data to patients so an innovative app community can help consumerization of healthcare information. This need exists at healthcare organizations as well – they need to bring together information from many disparate sources inside and outside the organization to begin to leverage data’s potential.

CMS pointed out that their purpose of unleashing the data, in particular, the claims data, helps create an understanding of the patient’s record. They also emphasized other data management issues (not their term) such as pushing information back to source systems and the need to better master patient records.

If you step back a bit, you’ll notice that the CMS and ONC announcement was really describing a complex data management problem. Forcing siloed healthcare data holders to open up data exchanges through API standards is good, but it’s far from an immediate solution. Healthcare organizations must invest in a data management layer that can handle the complexities of healthcare information across the value chain to create a single version of truth. Some of the challenges include:

  • Multi-domain mastering. Not just the patient domain that CMS mentioned, but physician data mastering (a huge issue for organizations with many downstream impacts)
  • On boarding dozens of data sources preferably without a large team of ETL developers
  • Data cleansing and enrichment
  • Harmonization of hundreds of code sets spanning millions of codes
  • Algorithm management for industry metrics, physician attribution, predictive analysis and other needs

At Information Builders we have developed Omni-HealthData to take on this exact set of challenges. Tracking data-sharing developments allowed us to anticipate this eventual push by CMS. Our software solution reflects that by delivering pre-built healthcare models built from the beginning to adhere to the emerging FHIR standard subjects. Additionally, it delivers out-of-the-box support for an extensive portion of the ISA specification today.

This enables our customers to deliver and receive health care data in conformance with the interoperability standards, and importantly, to gain insights into the data through the extensive analytics and algorithm support provided in Omni-HealthData.