In the Enhancing Confidentiality of Research Files Based on Medicare Data project, Acumen, LLC aims to expand the overall capabilities of researchers to use survey-linked Medicare claims data. Currently the process for obtaining approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to access these files entails significant paperwork and delays, which imposes a substantial burden on researchers. To facilitate access to high-quality data, Acumen will create survey-linked Medicare claims-level files that meet CMS's expedited DUA process requirements. This process allows researchers to forego components of the standard procedures required to obtain data with personally identifiable information (PII). The Limited Data Set (LDS) files currently available under the expedited process, however, have significant shortcomings. Specifically, the LDS files encrypt, mask, or omit a large number of data elements. Further, the variable do not contain sufficient information to permit linking to survey data, stratified analyses, or the study of geographic variation, among other research purposes. By creating more detailed survey-linked claim-level files available through the expedited process, Acumen will not only reduce the demand for PII data (thus, enhancing beneficiary confidentiality), but also will allow more researchers to access detailed CMS data. To create these enhanced survey-linked Medicare files, Acumen will leverage our existing Medicare/Medicaid Research Information Center (MedRIC). MedRIC is Acumen's established mechanism for creating and distributing survey-data linked to various CMS administrative files. To meet researcher demand and CMS regulations, Acumen will closely collaborate with NIA surveys and the CMS to accomplish the following Phase I aims: 1. Review CMS data structure and variable encryption criteria for the expedited DUA process 2. Design candidate data structures that comply with the CMS expedited DUA regulations 3. Consult with NIA surveys to refine candidate data structures 4. Secure CMS approval for finalized data structure 5. Establish a design for a data request process with NIA surveys and CMS 6. Determine additional computer infrastructure needed for data storage and extraction In Phase II of this Fast Track application, Acumen will build the data file designed in Phase I, create documentation, begin data distribution, and obtain user feedback. The creation of these files aims to shift research community's data use paradigm by improving researcher access to CMS data while enhancing beneficiary confidentiality protections.
Currently, researchers who wish to acquire detailed Medicare administrative data must undergo a lengthy application process to access this information. Under the 'Enhancing the Confidentiality of Research Files Based on Medicare Data' project, Acumen will create enhanced Medicare files linked to NIA survey data that: i) researchers will be able to access through an existing expedited acquisition process, and ii) will better protect beneficiary confidentiality by reducing the demand for CMS data containing personally identifiable information. By facilitating access to high-quality data, Acumen aims to improve the quality of healthcare research currently conducted across a wide range of research disciplines.