CMS Appoints Chief Data Officer; What Will It Mean for Data Access?

Health care stakeholders have long recognized the importance of utilizing big data in decision-making, but now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has moved the issue front and center with the creation of the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) and appointment of a Chief Data Officer.

Niall Brennan, who served as head of CMS’ Office of Enterprise Management, will be taking on this new role, where he’ll be responsible “for 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,” according to a press release.

Health care stakeholders also will be interested in whether this new office will expand its examination of data access beyond just the Medicare Part D program. In public comments filed earlier this year by the Healthcare Leadership Council and the National Pharmaceutical Council, the organizations asked CMS to reconsider “whether its current ban on access to Part D Drug Event data for commercial purposes should be revised to allow access for research with a commercial purpose. Currently, access to Research Identifiable Files (RIFs), which include the Medicare Part D data, is not allowed under a variety of situations—either because the research could have commercial implications, or the researcher is associated with a commercial enterprise.” 

The organizations wrote, “Patient-level data held by federal agencies is key in allowing stakeholders to improve quality and create efficiencies needed to meet ambitious health goals in the coming years. CMS facilitation of greater data access would be a positive development that aligns with federal policy goals. The question of access and commercial interest is larger, more important, and more urgent than CMS has considered thus far.”