JC calls for federal action for U.S. health data strategy

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JC looks to feds to set up a national register of medical devices. Source: EAN Egypt  

Healthcare executives repeated a call for the federal government to help promote national standards for sharing healthcare performance data in the United States during a forum sponsored by the Joint Commission (JC) in Chicago last week.

The JC last month called for the formation of a national performance measurement data strategy. The Commission’s white paper, “Development of a National Performance Measurement Data Strategy,” proposes a framework for creating a data infrastructure to support performance measurement activities that improve the quality of U.S. healthcare.

According to Government Health IT, Dennis O’Leary, president emeritus of the JC, said the federal government had shown a “lack of willingness to help standardize the measurement framework.” Health and Human Services Department Secretary Mike Leavitt seems wedded to the idea that performance data sharing works best on a local market level, he added.

“No one is talking about building a grand database in the sky,” said O’Leary said. “But we have to be able to look at ourselves nationally on an issue-by-issue basis.”

Without a coordinated strategy, he said, potentially powerful registries would become data silos. “Soon we’ll have a lot of data but no way to link that information.” It would be useful, he said, to be able to loop such registries together so that cardiac surgeons across the country could compare data on similar procedures, for example.

Others agreed on the importance of a national view of health data. “How difficult would it be to have a national register of medical devices?” asked Tom Williams, executive director of the Integrated Health Care Association. “If we can bar code cereal we can bar code the technology.”

Not everyone at the forum felt the federal government should become more invested, Government Health IT reported. Francois de Brantes, CEO of the Bridges to Excellence (BTE) organization, said working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), for example, would involve working under CMS rules.

“We may have something that’s usable in a CMS setting,” he said of BTE, a project to encourage hospitals to align their financial incentives with proven outcomes. “But once it’s engrained in law you can’t change it. So far, we’ve stayed away.”