In HIMSS Keynote, Seema Verna Doubles Down On Free Flowing Healthcare Data to Achieve Value-Based Care

At the 2018 HIMSS Conference, keynote speaker and CMS administrator, Seema Verna, spoke to leaders in healthcare IT, about the importance of free flowing data for patients and CMS's efforts to keep up. 

There have been many great advancements in the healthcare sector including precision medicine, robotic technology, 3D training tools, and telemedicine offerings that improve access to care. Despite these advancements, enormous challenges still face healthcare. In 2017, CMS released a report showing that the rate of growth in healthcare spending is not slowing down and that it will continue to grow more quickly than the overall economy. By 2026, healthcare spending will be one in every $5, crowding out funding for other priorities such as schools and the national defense. This system is unsustainable, and must be corrected. 

“Secretary Azar and I are working for competition and better value by moving away from a fee-for-service approach, to a system that is value-based -- and that rewards value over volume,” Verna stated, “This means paying providers on the outcomes they achieve, making people healthier rather than how many procedures they perform.”

Patients must be at the center of the care continuum for healthcare providers to achieve value-based care, until then our current unsustainable system will continue. 

Verna stated that CMS is partly to blame due to their lack of support for technology initiatives, including interoperability. Physicians are able to practice unbelievable lifesaving medicine, but are not able to translate that information to any useable form that can easily be taken and translated to other forms for other purposes.

Verna pointed out that while we are able to view and access some of the world’s most complicated information on personal devices, health records and personal health information is not so accessible. “We haven't been able to empower patients with the control of the most important information to each and every one of us – our health data," she said. “Instead, we have been saddled with a fragmented system that puts our systems first and patients second.”

Data’s hard walls

Due to our current system healthcare data doesn’t flow as intended, often hitting walls that cause information to remain dormant and out or reach. Patients are told the lack of access is for their own security, all of which impedes the move to a VBS for care.

To meet this challenge, Verna announced the launch of the MyHealthEData Initiative, a government-wide initiative designed to break down barriers that contribute to preventing patients from being able to access and control their medical records.

“MyHealthEData makes it clear that patients should have access and control to share their data with whomever they want, making the patient the center of our health care system. Patients need to be able to control their information and know that it’s secure and private. Having access to their medical information will help them make decisions about their care, and have a better understanding of their health,” she said.

In addition, CMS plans on reconstructing the meaningful use program for hospitals, and updating the documentation requirements of evaluation and management codes to make it easier for providers to use their EHRs and spend more time with their patients. 

Verna also announced an update to the Blue Button initiative, Blue Button 2.0, which will create a, "developer-friendly, standards-based API that enables Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to secure applications, services and research programs that they trust."

Furthermore, CMS plans to review its quality measures across its Stars programs, shifting focus to patient access to data while studying ways to reduce unnecessary testing.

“For those in the healthcare industry that are already working to make health records, safe, secure, easily accessible and easily understandable to patients, we give you our full support and we applaud your efforts. And we will work with you to continue on this path,” she said. “However, for those of you that still subscribe to the outdated idea that you can deny patients’ access to their health records, I encourage you, in the strongest way, to change course and accept that those practices will come to an end.”

Free-flowing health data is the future of a value-based healthcare system. In closing Verna urged healthcare IT leaders to, “double down on our commitment to protecting their privacy and making sure that our efforts to protect them from fraud and abuse are as vociferous as our efforts to give them control of their records."

Scott Rupp's picture

Scott Rupp


Scott E. Rupp is a writer and an award-winning journalist focused on healthcare technology. He has worked as a public relations executive for a major electronic health record/practice management vendor, and he currently manages his own agency, millerrupp. In addition to writing for a variety of publications, Scott also offers his insights on healthcare technology and its leaders on his site, Electronic Health Reporter.

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