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CMS Launches Data Element Library Supporting Interoperability

New resource provides streamlined access to CMS assessment data elements mapped to HIT standards.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced the agency's first Data Element Library (DEL). The DEL is a new CMS database that supports the exchange of electronic health information. Using this free, centralized resource, the public for the first time can view the specific types of data that CMS requires postacute care facilities (such as nursing homes and rehabilitation hospitals) to collect as part of the health assessment of their patients. These assessments include questions and response options (data elements) about patients, including demographics, medical problems, and other types of health evaluations. Many of these data elements have been standardized, which means that they are exactly the same no matter which type of postacute care facility is using them. Health care facilities integrate all of this patient information into their medical record systems, and this information is used for multiple purposes, such as payment by CMS, quality measurement, and quality improvement. It is important to note that the DEL doesn't contain any patient-identifiable data whatsoever.

The DEL also includes the HIT standards that support the collection of health information, which are the nationally agreed upon methods for connecting electronic health systems together. Because the DEL now puts these standards and data elements all in one place in a "one-stop shop," it will be much easier for HIT vendors to incorporate them into EHRs that are used by postacute care providers. Integrating these data elements into EHRs will ultimately allow health information to flow more easily from one provider to another. For example, when a patient moves from a rehabilitation hospital to a skilled nursing facility, then from that facility to home under the care of a home health agency, the transfer of the patient's health record from one facility to the next will be much easier because they are all "speaking the same language." This means better communication across health care providers, lower burden on providers, and ultimately improved coordination of care for patients.

"We're excited to add this important building block to the foundation for interoperability that CMS is helping to establish," says CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "The DEL supports the use and sharing of data, and aligns with MyHealthEData, a governmentwide effort strengthening the interoperability of health information. It also closely aligns with CMS' Patients Over Paperwork initiative focused on reducing administrative burden and costs while improving care coordination, outcomes, and patients' ability to make decisions about their own care." 

The DEL furthers CMS' goal of data standardization and interoperability, which is also a goal of the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act of 2014. The DEL will do the following: 

The DEL is just one part of the MyHealthEData initiative. As another core piece of MyHealthEData, CMS is proposing to overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs to increase flexibility and reduce burden for providers, promote information sharing between providers and patients, and incentivize providers to make it easier for patients to obtain their medical records electronically.  

To view the CMS Data Element Library, visit https://del.cms.gov/.

For questions about the CMS Data Element Library, contact DELHELP@cms.hhs.gov.

— Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services