Two US Senators from the Senate Finance Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Ron Wyden, have been advocating the need to make Medicare data available to the public to make Medicare claims data fully transparent while remaining secure.

In a bid to involve masses in the exploration towards making healthcare data more accessible and transparent, earlier in June, they reached out to “providers, payers, patients and other healthcare stakeholders” for suggestions and ideas, reports Healthcare IT News.

Concerned that patient healthcare data is although growing but remains an underutilized resource for developments in healthcare quality and value, they had broadly asked four questions:

  1. What data sources should be made available?
  2. How, in what form, and for what purposes should this data be conveyed?
  3. What reforms would help reduce the unnecessary fragmentation of health care data? What reforms would improve the accessibility and usability of health care data for consumers, payers, and providers?
  4. What barriers stand in the way of stakeholders using existing data sources more effectively, and what reforms should be made to overcome these barriers?

“This data has great potential for use by consumers who can be empowered to choose providers that best fit their specific needs; by providers who can improve and deliver higher-quality care; and by payers who can design the most efficient and effective delivery models,” Wyden and Grassley had pointed out.

The response they garnered was probably unlike what they had expected, with letters pouring in from all quarters of healthcare. Organisations such as the The Pew Charitable Trusts, Bipartisan Policy Center, HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association, the American Hospital Association and the Premier Healthcare alliance have all put in their contributions to the senators’ queries.

The latest is a letter dated Aug. 18 from Premier suggesting that several data groups should be more broadly available.

Blair Childs, Premier’s senior vice president of public affairs, points out in her letter, “Premier has found that when healthcare providers are able to access and use crucial, actionable data for analysis and best-practice sharing, it has spurred innovation in healthcare delivery and resulted in significant improvements in the care they provide to their patients.”

Explaining on the challenges ahead, child says, “Furthermore, balancing these needs with patients’ right to their privacy has become increasingly critical and challenging in light of the proliferation of healthcare data and the technologies used to collect, store and exchange them. Ultimately, technology, architecture, and information policy must work together to ensure patient privacy and to realize the full societal benefits of healthcare data.”

With more private and public institutions chipping in, it might just be possible that the senators have set in motion an awareness of sorts, that will perhaps lead to positive ends.

Read more here.

(Image Credit: JD Lasica)

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