CMS Provides Doctors Access to Patient Health Records via API

Just over a year ago the US Digital Service (USDS) in cooperation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), launched version 2.0 of the Blue Button APITrack this API, which aims to improve interoperability of Medicare claims data between different systems and to allow patients greater access to their claims information. Today at the second Blue Button Developer Conference at The White House, the CMS announced a pilot program for a new Data at the Point of Care API. Where the Blue Button API serves patients directly, this new API aims to improve patient care by giving Medicare providers seamless access to patient claims data.

In 2018 ProgrammableWeb interviewed USDS product manager Kelly Taylor, who provided our readers with an overview of the Blue Button API and outlined how it serves Medicare beneficiaries. Taylor noted that the target audience of developers for the API would be anyone who has Medicare beneficiaries in mind. He imagined developers building applications to support clinical trials, EHR (Electronic Health Records) systems, or home prescription drug delivery applications as a few examples. Since then, over 2000 application developers have engaged with the API and 28 applications are now generally available.

With the new Data at the Point of Care API, CMS is hoping to ensure that every Medicare provider has access to the data they need. This new API will allow developers to build tools that improve patient outcomes by reducing the burden on clinicians to start from scratch piecing together a patient’s medical history, allowing Medicare providers to focus on the patient's needs. CMS Administrator Seema Verma had this to say on a press call:

“This new program will help fill in the areas of missing information that currently plague providers. Whereas Blue Button 2.0 shared data with patients, this is about sharing patient data with providers.”

Using this new resource healthcare providers will be able to access vital patient information including previous diagnoses, past procedures, and past medications that have been prescribed. Access to this information is especially helpful as patients often struggle to accurately remember these details, leaving clinicians with an incomplete or inaccurate representation of the patient’s medical record.

Medicare beneficiaries grant permission to share data with providers early on in signing up for Medicare but are able to revoke this permission at any time. When a doctor makes a request for information it is validated on the back-end that the provider has been treating the patient and that implicit permission should be granted.

Starting today providers can sign up to be a part of this initial pilot program and in three months CMS will roll out production data. In January 2020 all Medicare providers will be able to receive claims data for their patients.

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