The Man and the Mission: Data Integrity and the First CMS Chief Data Officer

By Peggy Salvatore

The changes at CMS have been stunningly breathtaking over the past few months, particularly those related to health IT.

The top two biggies are personnel and mission refocus at the very top. Those high-profile changes signaled this most recent development which is the establishment of the Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics or OEDA (let’s pronounce it “oh-da” until we hear otherwise).

Niall Brennan is the First Chief Data Officer at OEDA, and the first best thing about Mr. Brennan is that they did not make him our First Data Czar. I was relieved about that. The title “Chief Data Officer” sounds more like a military assignment for someone in a position of responsibility and accountability. It’s likeable and trustworthy, and the title gets my vote of confidence.

The man even more so.

Mr. Brennan comes over from the CMS Office of Enterprise Management where he was acting director. According to the CMS Leadership website, he oversaw “a number of efforts related to data, e-health, business operations and project management across the CMS enterprise.” Before that, he was the Director of the Office of Information Products and Data Analytics “where he oversaw agency efforts on data storage and dissemination, analytics and the creation of information products.” And, oh by the way, CMS picked him up from the Brookings Institute where he “directed a range of efforts to better measure both the quality and cost of healthcare. And there’s more impressive stuff in his CMS bio which you can see here. He knows the terrain; in fact, it sounds like he was in charge of a good piece of the terrain outside the public eye.

The Mission

HealthData Management’s Greg Slabodkin interviewed Mr. Brennan who explained:

OEDA, which was formed last month by CMS to improve data collection and dissemination, is the “culmination of how the agency has been increasingly placing data and analytics as part of its core mission” as it has “evolved from a passive payer of claims into a value-based purchaser of care” over the past couple of years. With significant growth in the volume of CMS data and data users—both internally and externally—ensuring that the data is timely, relevant and accessible is critical, he argues.

The HealthData Management interview explored the current state of data within CMS, and the challenges and the goals for use of the data. It also defined one Mr. Brennan’s – and the healthcare system’s – greatest challenges: data integrity.

“We’re absolutely committed to transparency, not only transparency but also accuracy. There’s no point in being transparent if your numbers aren’t accurate,” asserts Brennan. “These are generally early days for transparency in healthcare and we are at the forefront of that effort. It’s not entirely surprising that if you look across our entire suite of publicly available products that some may not check everybody’s box of what actually constitutes useful information. We’re constantly striving to make our publicly available datasets better.”

Data integrity is critical for Mr. Brennan, CMS, providers and payers to do their jobs – that is to provide the best treatment, the first time, at the lowest cost, consistently for the patient. In fact, ECRI just released its annual Top 10 Technology Hazards for 2015 . Once again this year, alarm hazards topped the list. But right up there at #2 was Data Integrity; Incorrect or Missing Data in EHRs and Other Health IT Systems.

A big piece of getting data integrity right is making sure that the technology is integrated seamlessly into the workflow. Mobile devices and the many wearable, wireless technologies are beginning to make data available in real time and in real world settings. Data integrity is more than a panacea; the pieces are beginning to fall into place as the engineering catches up to the way we live and the way we interface with our healthcare system.

Between Mr. Brennan’s extensive understanding about parsing the data to achieve value and advances in collecting accurate data, it’s an exciting time, and Mr. Brennan quite possibly has one of the most central positions in making possible the world we will live in tomorrow.


One Response to The Man and the Mission: Data Integrity and the First CMS Chief Data Officer

  1. Pingback: Health Wonk Review: Post-Turkey Day edition [UPDATED] | Imergy Insurance

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