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Senior living providers are among the stakeholders being solicited for feedback by the federal government on a potential national centralized healthcare provider and services directory.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Wednesday released a request for information seeking public input on a potential National Directory of Healthcare Providers and Services. The agency indicated that the move is aimed at improving access to care, reducing clinician burden and supporting interoperability throughout the health sector. The notice is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday but is available as a PDF now.

“Easy access to accurate and useful provider directory information is critical for patients trying to find healthcare that best meets their individualized needs and preferences,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a news release. “CMS is seeking comment on how a National Directory of Healthcare Providers could better serve patients and reduce unnecessary burden placed on providers to maintain dozens of separate directories.”

A CMS spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that assisted living, memory care, independent living and continuing care retirement community operators are examples of the type of stakeholders that the agency is interested in hearing from during its 60-day comment period, which will close Dec. 6. The request for information says, “We specifically request comment on entities that may not currently be included in CMS systems,” and specifically mentions post-acute providers and nursing homes in addition to other settings.

The request also mentions the Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Resource Locator and asks, “Are there systems at the state or local level that would be beneficial for an NDH to interact with, such as those for licensing, credentialing, Medicaid provider enrollment, emergency response (for example, the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE)73) or public health?”

The spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that CMS did not define who would be included in the directory but is asking the public and interested stakeholders for input on who should be included. The agency is specifically requesting feedback on the directory concept and potential benefits, provider types, entities and data elements that could be included to create value for the healthcare industry, the technical framework for a directory, priorities for a possible phased implementation, and solutions to potential challenges and risks.

“CMS has developed this RFI to collect input and feedback on the current landscape of healthcare directors and steps CMS could or should take while considering sponsoring a CMS-developed and maintained NDH to help alleviate provider burden and improve healthcare directory information,” the spokesperson said. “CMS is specifically requesting public input and feedback on the NDH concept and potential benefits, interactions with current CMS data systems and impacts to business process — including National Plan & Provider Enumeration System [NPPES], Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System [PECOS] and Care Compare — technical framework, phased approach to implementation, and prerequisites and actions CMS should consider taking to address potential challenges and risks.”

According to a news release from CMS, healthcare directories can help individuals identify, compare and locate providers who meet specific needs and preferences, including office accessibility, language spoken and other data.

“Currently, the healthcare 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,” the release reads. 

The agency is seeking comment on how a CMS-led directory could reduce directory maintenance burden on providers and payers by providing the ability to update their own directories and provide a centralized system.

“A robust healthcare directory built on modern interoperable technology could greatly improve the availability of provider data and spur electronic health data exchange,” according to the agency. “CMS is seeking public input on a directory that could serve as a ‘centralized data hub’ for all healthcare 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 indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a need to make data available in a format that would ease health data exchange between providers and improve public health reporting. 

The CMS spokesperson said that all responses will be reviewed and considered for possible future action by the agency.