Achieving health equity requires a data connected healthcare system, says CMS administrator

Tom Leary, senior VP of Government Relations at HIMSS, speaks to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure by video about the link between interoperability and health equity, during HIMSS22.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Government health officials tied the importance of interoperability to health equity Tuesday during the HIMSS22 session “View From the Top: HIMSS Foundation Working Towards Health Equity.”

Data exchange is needed to understand gaps in the system, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. CMS will soon publish a rule on enhanced data exchange, she said, giving no specific date.

Tom Leary, senior vice president, Government Relations at HIMSS, and executive director of the HIMSS Foundation moderated the session through a live video with Brooks-LaSure and a prerecorded message from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Care needs to be integrated through interoperability, Becerra said. “Every patient has a right to their information. We’re finally implementing health technology from the 21st Century Cures Act,” he said, referring to the 2016 law on interoperability and information blocking.

This year presents opportunities in addressing Cures Act penalty enforcement on information blocking rules, he said. The provider penalty is up to the secretary of HHS, Becerra said.

Most of the complaints on information blocking have been from patients, such as one who said she was waiting for the result of a biopsy, but could only get the results by phone from the physician, and the physician was out-of-town. 

Becerra hinted at more news to share that would address such complaints later this year.

Brooks-LaSure said President Joe Biden has made it clear that HHS and CMS should do everything they can to break down barriers to care.

“It’s imperative people have access to coverage,” she said. 

No American should be left out or be left on the sidelines when it comes to health coverage, she said.

Technology can help in implementing six pillars, she said which are: addressing health disparities, building on the Affordable Care Act, engaging
partners and communities served, driving innovation to tackle health system challenges and promote value-based care, protecting program sustainability, and fostering a positive workplace and workforce.

The CMS Innovation Center supports short-term and long-term actions to facilitate data collection. CMMI is expected to overlay such data with existing beneficiary-level or site-specific information for purposes of monitoring and evaluating models.

COVID-19 exposed shortcomings in the healthcare system, especially in health equity, Brooks-LaSure said. Equity is a foundational issue for the agency.

“We need to build a data connected healthcare system,” Brooks-LaSure said. “We must do this to address the inequities in our healthcare system.”

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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