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CMS Mulls Use of Specialty Registries for Quality Data

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 16, 2013

The federal government wants to know how outcomes data that hospitals and doctors now submit to specialty society registries might be folded into Medicare performance measures that assess quality of care.

That's what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asked in its February "request for information" about such registries, and whether the agency should approve such clinical data registries as being "qualified," ultimately satisfying federal requirements under its Physician Quality Reporting System, or the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program.  

To be such a federally recognized registry, what requirements would a professional organization have to meet?

These voluntary reporting registries, a growing trend in specialty care especially for surgery and other invasive procedures, amass and risk-adjust, sometimes audit, and usually report back results to participating doctors and hospitals so they can benchmark their own performance.

"What would be the benefits and shortcomings involved with allowing third-party entities to report quality data to CMS on behalf of physicians and other eligible professionals?" CMS asked in one part of its request.

Specialties that operate or are starting such registries range from cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery, to orthopedics and neurosurgery.  

In about 100 responses submitted by the April 8 deadline, many of those organizations expressed concerns about how this would all play out.

"We think that if CMS allows registries to serve as physician quality reporting efforts, the agency should make sure the data is accurate and rigorously collected," says Clifford Ko, MD, director of the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, or NSQIP, which now has 700 hospitals participating in a variety of outcomes registries for surgery.

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