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Quality Forum Releases Health IT Data Framework

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, November 16, 2009

The National Quality Forum (NQF) has released the Quality Data Set (QDS), a common technological framework to assist in defining clinical data used in measuring performance and evaluating improvement in patients' quality of care. The QDS framework will provide a standardized set of data that should be captured in patients' electronic health records and is applicable to all care settings a patient is likely to use in his or her lifetime.

The framework consists of:

  • Standard elements, such as a code list for a specific condition such as diabetes, or a medication such as aspirin
  • Quality data elements including information describing the context of use in the clinical care process, such as a past history of diabetes or the administration of aspirin
  • Data flow attributes, such as the sources of the information including who is providing the standard and quality data elements and what the care setting is

"Providing a common data resource for all stakeholders in the quality measures supply chain will allow us to align our efforts and improve the comparability of quality reports while dramatically reducing the burden of quality measurement," said Paul Tang, MD, MS, chair of the expert panel that drafted the QDS.

The structure "will continue to grow and expand to meet future needs of quality measurement," said Tang, who is vice president and chief medical information officer at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and consulting associate professor of medicine at Stanford University.

To date, collecting and reporting "meaningful" healthcare performance data has been a manual process, which could lead to inconsistent results. The QDS is designed to act as a dictionary for quality measurement, according to the NQF—providing a standardized core set of data. NQF soon will begin requiring measures submitted for endorsement to include "e specifications" that align with the QDS framework.

"We are so pleased that we now have this fundamental building block for quality measurement and improvement," said Janet Corrigan, NQF president and CEO. "The Quality Data Set will help ensure that measure developers use common data definitions and conventions when specifying measures for use with electronic health records."

By using a common language to describe the information within quality measures, the QDS will permit quality measurement from a variety of electronic sources, such as electronic health records, personal health records, registries, and health information exchanges.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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