The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the agency’s first Data Element Library (DEL). The DEL is a new CMS database that supports the exchange of electronic health information. Using this free, centralized resource, the public for the first time can view the specific types of data that CMS requires post-acute care facilities (such as nursing homes and rehabilitation hospitals) to collect as part of the health assessment of their patients.
These assessments include questions and response options (data elements) about patients, including demographics, medical problems and other types of health evaluations. Many of these data elements have been standardized, which means that they are exactly the same no matter which type of post-acute care facility is using them. Healthcare facilities integrate all of this patient information into their medical record systems, and this information is used for multiple purposes, such as payment by CMS, quality measurement and quality improvement. It is important to note that the DEL doesn’t contain any patient-identifiable data whatsoever.
The DEL also includes the health information technology (health IT) standards that support the collection of health information, which are the nationally agreed upon methods for connecting electronic health systems together. Because the DEL now puts these standards and data elements all in one place in a “one-stop shop,” it will be much easier for health IT vendors to incorporate them into electronic health records (EHRs) that are used by post-acute care providers.
Integrating these data elements into EHRs will ultimately allow health information to flow more easily from one provider to another. For example, when a patient moves from a rehabilitation hospital to a skilled nursing facility, then from that facility to home under the care of a home health agency, the transfer of the patient’s health record from one facility to the next will be much easier because they are all “speaking the same language.” This means better communication across healthcare providers, lower burden on providers and ultimately improved coordination of care for patients.