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Consistent Measures of Quality, Cost Needed to Support Reform Efforts

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, August 5, 2009

Current healthcare reform efforts under consideration in Congress—ranging from payment reforms (such as episode payments and accountable care organizations) to efforts to promote implementation of health information technology—have at least one thing in common, according to Mark McClellan, MD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

"We can't do any of them without reliable, meaningful, and consistent measures of quality being available," McClellan said recently at a "Getting to a High-Value Health System" meeting in Washington. That means now is the time to "get systems in place to support better decisions for patients by their clinicians involved in their care, and by everyone who is working at the personal level to improve care."

The High-Value Health Care concept is a project of the Quality Alliance Steering Committee, made up of the Engelberg Center, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Board of Medical Specialties, and America's Health Insurance Plans. The idea is that little attention has been directed to the questions: What reform is needed to ensure that needed quality measures are implemented quickly and efficiently, and how can the measures be used to improve healthcare?

Getting to better quality healthcare will take some time, According to Carolyn Clancy, MD, head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, quality is moving in the "right" direction. She said at the current rate, "it will take 18.73 years to close the gap between best possible and actual care," she said at the meeting. "So we've got a long way to go."

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