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First Ray of Sun Shines on Cancer Measure Reporting

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 2, 2014

Erik Muther, PHCQA's Executive Director, realizes that his group is doing something no one else has tried. They wanted to inspire the public to compare healthcare quality data, which consumers poorly understand, he says.

"We wanted to push the envelope, and we saw that cancer care is by far the most commonly researched clinical condition on the Internet, head and shoulders above heart disease. So if that's what they were looking for, we wanted to give them that," and in so doing, convey "the importance of quality measurement and how it ultimately affects cost of care."

A second reason tipped the scales for PHCQA to pursue this project. Muther notes that later this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to publicly release cancer quality measure results for 11 big-name cancer hospitals, the so-called PPS (prospective payment system)-exempt centers including MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the City of Hope National Medical Center.

CMS regulations exempt these 11 hospitals from public reporting programs for general acute care hospitals because cancer centers don't treat conditions like heart disease.

But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act specified that CMS find evidence-based cancer measures to substitute, which it did, including adjuvant chemotherapy for patients with stage III colon cancer and two measures documenting combination chemotherapy for two types of stage II or III breast cancer.

"We thought, Well look, here are some cancer hospitals that do collect measure information [for this other program], but the vast majority of patients actually don't go to these cancer-specific hospitals; the majority of cancer patients are actually treated at non-cancer specific hospitals," Muther says. Why shouldn't the public have information about them?

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