The Nashville Health Care Council hosted Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney and former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, last week for an in-depth conversation about the future of open data sharing and the range of its possible uses within health care. The discussion was moderated by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., partner at Cressey & Company, in front of more than 200 Council members at the Franklin Marriott.
Photo credit: (c) 2019, Donn Jones.
The two leaders discussed lessons from Chopra’s experience in both the public and private sectors, insights into the evolution of health information-sharing, and the impact open data could have on health care organizations’ business models.
For starters, Chopra said, the federal government has proven to be much more receptive and willing to explore new ideas for patient data usage – a theme that has been proven across multiple presidential administrations.
“This is massively bipartisan,” said Chopra. “If you were to read the Trump MyHealthEData policy and the Obama open health data policy side-by-side, there’s a direct line. It actually might have picked up slope, because [the Obama administration] didn’t impose rules on plans, but they added that and built on progress like the 21st Century Cures Act by Sen. Alexander and others.”
Much of the conversation focused on Blue Button 2.0, the application programming interface (API) from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) used to collect and store private health data for 53 million Medicare beneficiaries. Chopra helped launch the initial “Blue Button” program in 2010. While private sector companies have begun building apps to use claims data for their patients and members, Chopra said CMS has been largely alone at the forefront of its innovation.
“Today, the government is the only in-production claims-based Blue Button API service. That’s a bit of a joke,” he said. “In the latest regulations coming out, CMS is saying, ‘Are you kidding me? If we could do this, and we’re the government, surely BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee can do it, and Aetna and any Medicaid managed care plan, and so on.’”
Chopra pointed to one Nashville-based health care company as an example of forward-looking data management. Despite using multiple EHR vendors across its 106 hospitals, Chopra said, Community Health Systems (CHS) has re-worked its IT infrastructure to create readable patient data that can be translated and used across the system – and beyond.
“I believe CHS is the very first health system in the United States to actually aggregate across their EHRs to create a single voice in communicating out to third-party application developers,” said Chopra. “That’s a big deal, because if you’re building clinically integrated networks and live in a multiple-EHR world, you now have a case study on how, with this infrastructure layer., you can have one connection to applications.”
Looking ahead, Chopra told the audience that the onus will increasingly fall on the private sector to take advantage of the steps the government has taken toward open data sharing. With major Promoting Interoperability deadlines approaching, he said the time is now for organizations to begin thinking about how they are collecting, protecting, analyzing and sharing health data.
“Organizations need to be setting up the right strategic questions in preparation for this work,” said Chopra, whose company CareJourney analyzes population health data for payers, providers and pharmaceutical companies. “Don’t hand this off to I.T. as a compliance exercise. This is massive opportunity for a consumer-driven strategy. Are we on offense or defense? Are we waiting or not? Are we building new services on this data or not? This is the moment.”