The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it would for the first time make its data, including Medicare claims, available to industry, in a bid to boost innovation.

The agency, which plans to begin accepting research proposals seeking data in September, has changed course from a previous stance to jumpstart creativity in using the data, according to a news release.

“We expect a stream of new tools for beneficiaries and care providers that improve care and personalize decision-making,” says Andy Slavitt, acting CMS administrator.

The move could draw a lot of interest. “The potential is enormous, given the amount of data Medicare has,” says Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER, a Chicago-based health technology incubator. “They’re sitting on a veritable ocean of it.”

Demand should be strong, Collens suggests, especially for organizations that are doing predictive analytics.

Meanwhile, CMS’ separate release of charge, cost and utilization data didn’t get a uniformly warm reception, with some arguing that the Medicare numbers don’t provide an accurate picture to the public.

“Medicare payments are not reflective of hospital costs,” officials at the American Hospital Association wrote in a statement. “They are set by law, and government programs underpay and don’t cover the cost of care.”

The association urged hospital leaders to download its toolkit, “Achieving Price Transparency for Consumers,” which can be found at www.ahacommunityconnections.org.