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CMS and Big Data Development

Back in June of 2015 the CMS announced a new policy to allow third-party access to CMS data (such as Medicare claims) as part of approved research into population health at national levels. The goal was to develop new insights from the huge pool of anonymized patient information (AKA Big Data) which would showcase health trends and potentially help develop new diagnostic techniques and treatment insights, using new tools and technology developed along the way.

big data picStep forward 7 months. The CMS announced today that Premier, the alliance of approximately 3,600 hospitals and 120,000 healthcare providers, is the first organization approved by the CMS to access their Virtual Research Data Center (VRDC) to take advantage of the opportunities which the Big Data policy offers. The VRDC is a government maintained resource of anonymized health data accessible to approved academics and healthcare professionals by written request. This news marks the first time an entity has been provided direct access to the VRDC source information.

The research and analytics divisions of Premier will share some of their findings by publishing them for other providers, to help reduce health costs, improve provider performance and even identify new and improved best practices.

Wes Champion, senior vice president of Premier Performance Partners, said of the news that "Being approved to use the CMS VRDC signifies our leadership in creating innovative solutions to improve patient care. Access to the VRDC will allow Premier to calculate timelier performance measures than currently available, and identify additional opportunity areas to help move healthcare performance improvement further, faster."

This announcement signifies the first step into the brave new world of healthcare interoperability that we have been hearing about for several years. The financial benefits to Premier will of course be significant, they are after all in business to make profit, but the benefits to the rest of us as well as overall healthcare stand to be equally significant. It will be interesting to watch where this takes healthcare.

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