CMS asks for public input on establishing first national directory of health care providers and services 

October 5, 2022 – As part of CMS’ ongoing work to improve access to care, reduce clinician burden, and support interoperability throughout the health sector, CMS today released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on the concept of CMS creating a directory with information on health care providers and services or a “National Directory of Healthcare Providers and Services” (NDH). 

Health care directories can serve as an important resource for patients, helping them locate providers who meet their individual needs and preferences and allowing them to compare health plan networks. Directories also can facilitate care coordination, health information exchange, and public health data reporting. 

Currently, the health care directory landscape is fragmented, resulting in patients sometimes struggling to find up-to-date information about providers in their network and providers facing redundant and burdensome reporting requirements to multiple databases. Because of that burden, directories often contain inaccurate information, rarely support interoperable data exchange or public health reporting, and are costly to the health care industry. In 2018, CMS added fields to the National Provider and Payer Enumeration System (NPPES), which assigns HIPAA-mandated unique identifiers for health care providers. for providers to submit digital contact information. A robust health care directory built on modern interoperable technology could greatly improve the availability of provider data and spur electronic health data exchange. CMS is seeking public input on a directory that could serve as a “centralized data hub” for all health care directory and digital contact information with accurate, up-to-date, and validated data in a publicly accessible index, developed through streamlined information submission from providers. CMS is seeking comment on whether consolidating those data could help improve access to care and patient choice by making it easier for patients to identify, compare, and locate providers who meet their specific needs and preferences, such as those related to office accessibility, languages spoken, or other data. 

CMS is seeking comment on how a CMS-led directory could reduce directory maintenance burden on providers and payers by creating a single, centralized system, promoting real-time accuracy for patients. Using modern interoperable technology would allow payers to update their own directories seamlessly from a single directory through an Application Programming Interface (API). It could also make data available in a format that would ease health data exchange between providers and improve public health reporting, a need highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, a CMS-led directory could directly support network interoperability through the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). 

Feedback obtained in response to the RFI will aid CMS’ understanding of the current landscape of health care directories, as well as information useful to CMS when considering an NDH. CMS is specifically requesting public feedback on the NDH concept and potential benefits, provider types, entities and data elements that could be included to create value for the health care industry, the technical framework for an NDH, priorities for a possible phased implementation, and prerequisites and actions CMS should consider taking to address potential challenges and risks. 

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