Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Milestone for Personal Health Records

On November 12, Acting CMS administrator Kerry Weems and HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt made an announcement that has not been widely covered in the press, yet has deep significance.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has embraced personal health records and will enable Medicare members in Arizona and Utah to access their own data from CMS databases via Google Health , NoMoreClipBoard , HealthTrio , and PassportMD . CMS pushes the data to the beneficiary's personal health record account upon the request of the beneficiary, rather than giving PHR vendors direct access to CMS databases.

Having worked with CMS for many years on transactions for treament/payment/operations and having worked with the CMS contracted Research Data Assistance Center (ResDac) for research datasets, I can say that CMS is very conservative about sharing its data and embracing new technologies.

The fact that CMS has linked the Medicare database to Google Health and other PHRs implies that CMS has embraced Healthcare 2.0 approaches to infrastructure and has validated the importance of personal health records. It also signifies that CMS has accepted secure transmission of healthcare data over the internet using HTTPS as secure enough. In the past, it's been challenging to transmit data from/to CMS via the public internet.

CMS, the funder of more than half of the healthcare in the US, generally drives adoption and change through reimbursement policy. In this case, by offering patients access to their own claims data, CMS will create patient expectations that will motivate the private payer community to do the same.

Linking Medicare over the internet to PHRs may be one of Secretary Leavitt's greatest accomplishments. Let's hope the Arizona and Utah pilots are successful.
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