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Verma: COVID-19 Proving the Need for Greater Interoperability

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of inefficiencies” in the healthcare system — with one of the largest being data sharing and access, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said Tuesday. Data access is critical both for patients who are navigating care for COVID-19 as well as for the army of contact tracers trying to track the spread of the virus, the CMS chief said while speaking during Fortune’s Brainstorm Health event. That data is often trapped in electronic silos,” Verma said. For example, Verma said, the patients who were in quarantine on cruise ships during the early days of the pandemic would have been in a better position if they had access to their electronic health records and medical data, which would provide details on other medical conditions or medications they take. Interoperability has been a key focus at CMS under the Trump administration, which has been working to push through regulations aimed at increasing data sharing alongside the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The pandemic has posed a major hurdle to those efforts, as providers call for more time to implement changes amid surges of the virus — even as federal officials argue that COVID-19 has made a clear case for why these updates are necessary.