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Increased Access to Federal Health Data Will Improve Health and Health Care

Access to federal health care data plays a critical role in supporting new delivery system and payment models that deliver better outcomes. It also serves the needs of consumers who want more information to support decision-making, and health care leaders who are taking important steps to improve the population’s health.

The federal government has made several efforts to make federal health data accessible. But to support the level of access necessary to drive improvements in U.S. health and health care, more action is needed.

In April 2014, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) convened public and private sector leaders to explore the benefits of federal health data, current challenges associated with its access and use, and the policy changes needed to support both the availability and utility of such data. Today, both organizations released an issue brief, Access to Federal Health Data: A Key Imperative for Improving Health and Health Care, summarizing the highlights of the roundtable discussion.

Roundtable participants identified several key challenges associated with federal health data, including limitations on access, the need for more flexibility in data use agreements, and commercial interest restrictions that focus on the type of organization using the data as opposed to the nature of its use.

Key policy considerations that emerged from the discussion include:

  1. The federal government, as part of its “open government initiative,” should further explore and encourage government-wide policies and standards for health data-sharing.
  2. The federal government should convene stakeholders for a broad public discussion regarding situations where restrictions on health data access are appropriate.
  3. The federal government should broaden efforts to share most federal health data, with appropriate privacy protections.

As American health care moves at an unprecedented pace toward a data-driven, information-based system that promotes better health outcomes, both the public and the private sectors must take steps to make health data more available—with appropriate privacy protections—to improve the quality, cost, and patient experience of care.

Read the full report.

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