The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has unveiled a new database, which it calls the Data Element Library, to support the exchange of electronic health information.

The free database will enable the general public and providers to see the specific types of data that CMS requires post-acute care facilities to collect as part of the health assessment of patients.

“These assessments include questions and response options (data elements) about patients, including demographics, medical problems and other types of health evaluations,” the agency explains in a notice to industry stakeholders.

The new data element library was launched a little more than one year after the Government Accountability Office criticized the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to help post-acute facilities share data, contending that HHS lacked a comprehensive plan. In response, HHS told GAO it was taking first steps to evaluate efforts to establish baseline metrics and also was planning to survey providers in post-acute settings to collect baseline data on adoption rates of electronic health records and health information exchange.

Also See: GAO criticizes HHS efforts to aid info exchange in post-acute care

Many of the data elements in the data element library are already standardized so they are the same regardless of the type of post-acute facility. Healthcare organizations should integrate these elements into their medical record systems to be used for purposes such as payment by CMS, quality measurement and quality improvement. The data element library has no patient identifiable information.

The library also contains health IT standards supporting collection of health information; these are the standards that connect electronic health systems together. Consequently, the data element library is a one-stop-shop from which health IT vendors can easily incorporate standards and elements into post-acute care electronic health records, according to CMS.

“For example, when a patient moves from a rehabilitation hospital to a skilled nursing facility, then from that facility to home under care of a home health agency, the transfer of the patient’s health record from one facility to the next will be easier because they are all speaking the same language.”

Providers using the data element library can expect to experience better communication, lower work burdens and improved coordination of care, the agency asserts.

The data element library is available here. A fact sheet on the library is here.

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