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Top 12 Healthcare Quality Concerns in 2012

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 4, 2012

Which quality issues will provoke the most influential changes in healthcare in 2012? Or, which ones will most rapidly accelerate the graying of chief quality officers' hair? There are so many, it's hard to pick the most significant.  We interviewed quality experts around the country to glean the most influential and then picked a dozen.

Here's the list:

1.Patient experience scores hinge on "always" responses

The value-based purchasing sweepstakes have begun, with the first performance period for clinical process of care and HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) questions scheduled to end March 31. Payment adjustments will begin for patients discharged as of Oct. 1, and the winners and losers will then be revealed.

What makes many hospitals and clinical nurse managers most nervous, however, is that the patients responding to these surveys must reply "Always," in order for the hospital to get credit for high quality patient experiences. Responses "Sometimes," or "Usually" aren't going to cut the mustard.

"How often did nurses listen carefully to you?"  "How often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?" "How often was your pain well controlled?"

"Always."

And by the way, Jan. 4, 2012 is the data submission deadline for patients dishcharged in July, August and September, 2011.

2. Physician Compare

As if providers didn't already have enough to worry about with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurer payment reductions, electronic medical record and meaningful use compliance, disclosing payments from durable equipment and pharmaceutical companies and yes  – remembering to answer their patients' e-mails. Now they have something else to fret about.

As of this New Year's Day, according to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the official reporting period begins for physician performance on quality and patient experience measures for physicians enrolled in Medicare on Physician Compare.

Starting "no later than" next New Year's Day, 2013, the Health and Human Services Secretary shall "implement a plan" to make publicly available on Physician Compare a huge number of quality scores.

They include measures from the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, an assessment of each physician's patients' health outcomes and their functional status, an assessment of the continuity and coordination and care and care transitions including episodes of care and resource use, efficiency, patient experience and patient, caregiver and family engagement, safety, and effectiveness and timeliness of care.

And if all that weren't enough, the HHS secretary gets to publish other information on Physician Compare he or she determines appropriate.

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