Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made additional Medicare data publicly available and expanded the permissible uses of other data.

For the third consecutive year, CMS released hospital-specific data on inpatient and outpatient charges, Medicare payments, and utilization for common Medicare procedures.  CMS also released similar data on physicians and other suppliers.  Some provider groups expressed concern that the data does not reflect providers’ costs or quality of care.

In what could be a significant shift from prior practice, CMS also announced that it plans to allow “innovators and entrepreneurs” to access certain detailed CMS data.  The data will be accessible through the CMS Virtual Research Data Center (VRDC), which currently houses detailed Medicare and Medicaid data.  In its announcement, CMS suggested that it would permit access to the data even for certain “commercial purposes,” something that has not been allowed to date.  However, it remains unclear what commercial purposes will be permissible and who CMS considers to be the “innovators and entrepreneurs” that may access the data.  CMS will release additional information about the policy in September 2015, and will begin to accept research requests at that time.