CMS Creates New Chief Data Officer Post, Led By Niall Brennan

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced the formation of the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) which will be led by Niall Brennan, the agency’s first Chief Data Officer (CDO), and tasked with overseeing improvements in data collection and dissemination as the agency strives to be more transparent. OEDA will help CMS better harness its vast data resources to guide decision-making and develop frameworks promoting appropriate external access to and use of data to drive higher quality, patient-centered care at a lower cost.

CMS collects a wealth of data that is critical to decision making for the agency and other stakeholders in the nation’s health care system. CMS generates data administering the Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP programs. In addition, new responsibilities, including stewardship of the EHR Incentive Programs, more expansive quality measurement programs, and the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplaces, have expanded the scope of data that CMS collects. As CMS works to shift the focus from volume of services to better health outcomes for patients, coordinating care, and spending dollars more wisely, the need for CMS to analyze data across its multiple programs and provide greater access to this data, whether in granular or aggregate form, will only intensify.

“It’s clear how much data transparency will help the country improve outcomes, control costs and aid consumer decision making,” said CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt. “This appointment signals to the industry that there is no turning back from the health care data agenda. Niall Brennan will help make sure CMS leads the way.”

The creation of this new post and the data and analytics office  builds on the steps CMS has taken in recent years to better harness its data resources both internally and externally. CMS is now routinely analyzing claims data in real time and applying predictive analytics to proactively identify fraud and abuse and track key metrics such as hospital readmissions. Accountable Care Organizations and State Medicaid agencies receive monthly near real-time feeds of Medicare data to support care coordination. CMS has launched the Virtual Research Data Center to facilitate lower cost access to CMS data for researchers and federal grantees. CMS has also released numerous public use datasets; the most notable releases to date include the release of data on hospital charges and physician utilization in 2013 and 2014.

“Our commitment to transparency is matched by our commitment to keeping personal information safeguarded. We can’t expect to advance health outcomes unless we also ensure that our policies and practices around data privacy are leading the way,” said Slavitt. “We look forward to building on the success of recent releases, providing a clearer picture of the health care delivery system.”

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