The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is looking to hire a chief health informatics officer as part of its strategy to drive down healthcare costs through smart and innovative use of information technology.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma made the announcement about the new CHIO role on Thursday, emphasizing that the agency is “doubling down” on health IT by creating the position. Writing in a blog, Verma acknowledged that “as the largest healthcare payer in the country, CMS should have had a CHIO function long ago” and reported that the agency has begun the process of filling the role.

Among other duties, the CHIO will develop the agency’s health IT and information management strategy, with an initial focus on improving innovation and interoperability, and act as a liaison between CMS and private industry stakeholders.

While CMS is still working out the specific responsibilities of the job which will pay a salary of $134,789 to $164,200 annually, Verma said the position will “help drive forward the many health IT initiatives we have begun this year, including the Medicare Blue Button 2.0 program—a universal digital format for personal health information—and our overhaul of the CMS EHR Incentive Programs to focus on interoperability.”

Also See: CMS launches Blue Button 2.0 to free up claims data

Verma also highlighted the MyHealthEData initiative launched in March by CMS and the White House Office of Innovation, which seeks to eliminate barriers preventing patients’ electronic access and control of medical records.

“Through MyHealthEData, CMS envisions a future in which all patients have access to their own health data and use it to make the right decisions for themselves and to get the best value,” according to Verma. “Another reason behind our decision to create a CHIO role is that today at CMS, we are focused on data, not only to inform our strategy, but also to promote patient choice and drive down cost.”

In particular, she said the agency is assessing the data it currently has and “how best to apply it to our mission” as well as an enterprise-wide application programming interface strategy that “will allow us to securely provide data so that software developers, researchers, and others can design useful products (such as apps) powered by it, just as so many companies do to enhance their customer experience.”

Verma admitted that CMS can no longer operate with the same “way-we-have-always-done-it” approach and that the agency is seeking “leading healthcare IT talent” for the CHIO position to “drive health IT and data sharing to enhance healthcare delivery, improve health outcomes, drive down costs, and empower patients.”

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