CMS taps analytics to examine big health care data

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is hoping to build on work being done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to create visualization tools, advanced analytics and a variety of prototypes for health care data delivery.

The Energy Department lab will assist CMS in using its data more efficiently both internally and externally, according to a contract award notice posted in

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Analytics is a breed of software that uses computer technology and statistical math to sift through ultra-large datasets. Advanced analytics is increasingly being used by government to discover economic and operational advantages that otherwise would be hidden in the streams of unstructured data flowing out of government programs.

These ultra-large datasets, known as big data, are so large that conventional database management systems cannot handle them efficiently. The CIA, for example, is embracing big data to dramatically speed up the time it takes to analyze and act on the sea of data its sensors and agents collect.

CMS also intends to award a sole source contract to a contractor in Silver Spring, Md., who will help the agency’s Center for Strategic Planning to maximize access to CMS data.

The contractor will provide consultation and advice to the project. “Further, the contractor will make recommendations, advise, and assist in the design and development of other related project initiatives upon request,” the notice states.

The impetus for CMS’ data access initiative is President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order calling for greater transparency in federal programs. Since then, the CTO of the Health and Human Services Department has worked closely with CMS to develop projects that further those goals. As a result, CMS’ Center for Strategic Planning is involved in managing the Oak Ridge visualization and analytics project.

The contractor will work with the Center for Strategic Planning, CMS’ Office of Information Services and Chief Operating Officer’s Office as well as the CTO of HHS to ensure active coordination and effective progress on CMS data access projects.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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