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CMS proposes first-ever nationwide directory of health care providers, services


Agency to seek public comment on benefits of centralizing provider data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing to create the first-ever national directory of health care providers and wants the public’s help with the project.

In a recent press release, CMS announced that it has issued a Request for Information seeking public input on a “National Directory of Healthcare Providers and Services” (NDH). The directory would serve as a central data source for all health care directory and digital contact information containing accurate, up-to-date data in a publicly accessible index.

In the announcement the agency said it wants public comment on two aspects of the project. First, whether consolidating such data would improve patient choice and access to care by making it easier for patients to identify, locate and compare providers that suit their needs; and second, how creating a single, centralized system could reduce the burden of directory maintenance for payers and providers and promote information accuracy for patients.

“Easy access to accurate and useful provider directory information is critical for patients trying to find health care that best meets their individualized needs and preferences,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in the release. “CMS is seeking comment on how a National Directory of Health Care Providers and Services could better serve patients and reduce unnecessary burden placed on providers to maintain dozens of separate directories.”

CMS says the current directory landscape is “fragmented, resulting in patients sometimes struggling to find up-to-date information about providers in their network and providers facing redundant and burdensome reporting requirements to multiple databases.” Consequently, “directories often contain inaccurate information, rarely support interoperable data exchange or public health reporting, and are costly to the health care industry.”

By contrast, it says, a directory built on interoperable technology could improve the availability of provider data and stimulate electronic health data exchange. The data in the directory would be available in a format that would ease health data exchange among providers and improve public health reporting. The directory would also allow payers to update their own directories seamlessly through an Application Programming Interface and support network interoperability through the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement.

“CMS is specifically requesting public feedback on the NDH concept and potential benefits, provider types, entities and data elements that could be included to create value for the health care industry, the technical framework for an NDH, priorities for a possible phased implementation, and prerequisites and actions CMS should consider taking to address potential challenges and risks,” according to the release.

The public comment period on the proposal is open through December 6.

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