CMS creates chief data officer position, new data office

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has hired a chief data officer to lead a new office overseeing the use of the agency’s wealth of health information.

Niall Brennan, who served as head of CMS’ Office of Enterprise Management before this data chief role, will be tasked with improving data collection and dissemination efforts for the agency in pursuit of greater transparency, according to a release. The Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics, which houses Brennan’s new position, is meant to help CMS manage its growing collection of data, spurred by the proliferation of a national health care system based on electronic health records, as well as data received from Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program.

With the increase in CMS data volume, the new office and data chief position will put the agency in a position to provide better, more-transparent health care based on that information.

“It’s clear how much data transparency will help the country improve outcomes, control costs and aid consumer decision making,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt said in a statement. “This appointment signals to the industry that there is no turning back from the health care data agenda. Niall Brennan will help make sure CMS leads the way.”


That abundance of data, of course, is of sensitive nature. CMS said it recognizes the importance of safeguarding patients’ personally identifiable information while increasing its data collection and distribution.

“Our commitment to transparency is matched by our commitment to keeping personal information safeguarded. We can’t expect to advance health outcomes unless we also ensure that our policies and practices around data privacy are leading the way,” Slavitt said. “We look forward to building on the success of recent releases, providing a clearer picture of the health care delivery system.”

CMS is the latest federal agency to join the CDO trend, following behind the Transportation Department, the Commerce Department and the Federal Communications Commission. Prior to this announcement, the agency made a push to release more datasets, like its Sunshine Act data on the financial relationships the health care industry has with doctors and teaching hospitals. CMS also introduced its Virtual Research Data Center last November.

CMS did not return requests for comment.

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