Healthcare Quality Metrics 'Abysmal,' Senate Panel Hears

Cheryl Clark, July 2, 2013

Quality experts, including the CEO of the National Quality Forum and a former CMS administrator, caution members of the Senate Finance Committee that healthcare quality measures must be better coordinated to be effective.

The nation's efforts to measure healthcare quality has improved in recent years, but that isn't saying much considering how much stakeholders are still in the dark, several quality experts told members of the Senate Finance Committee this week.  

Rather, providers, employers and health consumers are increasingly befuddled by more than 1,100 measures used for scoring and payment just in the Medicare program alone, with little understanding of which ones, if any, really drive better outcomes.

"When I asked our members last week how they would describe the value of our national quality measurement efforts to their own companies, they responded with one word: 'abysmal,'" said David Lansky, President and CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents 60 companies that buy health coverage for 10 million people and their dependents.  

"They're looking for meaningful transparency on price and quality, and neither is available today."

Specifically, he said, "providers should be required to measure and report their outcomes… Improvements in quality of life, functioning and longevity, like after a patient has a knee replacement, is the pain reduced, can she walk normally? Can she return to work? When a child has asthma, can he play school sports? Can he sleep through the night?  

"Unfortunately the measurements we use today leave us unable to make many of these vital judgments about the quality of doctors, hospitals or healthcare organizations. "


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