CMS seeks feedback on plans to build centralized, nationwide provider directory

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) wants public input on how best to create a centralized, nationwide directory of healthcare providers and services, according to an unpublished notice in the Federal Register and a release from the agency.

CMS said it envisions such a directory as a resource for patients seeking specific provider characteristics, such as spoken language, or comparing health plan networks.

“Easy access to accurate and useful provider directory information is critical for patients trying to find healthcare that best meets their individualized needs and preferences,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement.

The directory could replace the current “fragmented” landscape of incomplete and out-of-date databases, CMS said.

CMS’ unpublished Request for Information notice highlighted a 2019 provider survey (PDF) from the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare that estimated physician practices collectively spend $2.76 billion annually, or $998.84 per month per practice, on directory maintenance. The same survey estimated that transitioning data collection to a single platform would collectively save $1.1 billion annually, or $4,746 annually per practice.

If designed to be interoperable, the tool could also support provider and payer organizations by removing burdens in updating their own directories, exchanging health information and reporting public health data, the agency wrote.

“We believe that CMS may have an opportunity to alleviate some of these burdens and improve the state of provider directories through a CMS-developed and maintained, application programming interface (API)-enabled, national directory,” the agency wrote in the notice.

Feedback from the public will help CMS better understand the current landscape of healthcare directories as it weighs whether to establish the nationwide directory, it wrote.

CMS specifically requested comments on what information would be beneficial to include, a potential technical framework for the directory, priorities in the case of a phased implementation and other prerequisites and actions the agency should take.

The Request for Information will be open for a 60-day period ending Dec. 6, CMS said.