CMS' Seema Verma: Medicare data sharing proposal is 'about the patient'

Seema Verma speaking at press conference
Seema Verma said proposed patient information portability rules are meant to improve care for patients—and help providers. (

The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said she doesn't yet have a read on how the hospital industry is going to respond to a proposal that would require data sharing as a condition of their participation in Medicare.

But she said that's not her primary concern.

"A lot of folks say, 'Well how do the hospitals feel? How does this entity feel.' Really, what we’re trying to do is put patients first. This is about the patient," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday where she largely addressed Medicaid waivers during the 30-minute question and answer session.

Health data portability has gradually moved up Verma’s list of agency priorities since last year when the White House began hosting a series of interoperability meetings, one HHS official who wasn’t authorized to talk on the record recently told FierceHealthcare.

In an 1,880-page rule (PDF) released by CMS last month, the agency said it sought an “overhaul” of the Meaningful Use program including potentially requiring hospitals to share patient records electronically with other hospitals, community providers and patients "if possible."

RELATED: CMS hints at Blue Button 2.0 mandates for Medicare Advantage plans in 2020

During her discussion with reporters this week, Verma said the protracted problem of disconnected patient health information is "not a great picture" for anyone in healthcare.

"It’s not good for the patient in terms of not having a holistic view of all of their information, for the providers I think it’s very difficult if you don’t have all that patient's complete information to make decisions," Verma said  "From just the whole health economy, we’re repeating tests."

RELATED: How CMS plans to 're-examine' its relationship with insurers to drive patient-centric data sharing