Performance measures crucial to health improvement, says Corrigan

"We have a good shot at really moving at an exponential pace over the next five to 10 years, to really get to where we want to go," said Janet Corrigan, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, speaking to a packed house in the auditorium-sized Venetian Showroom on Tuesday morning.

Key to effecting that "logarithmic" change across healthcare? The use of standardized performance measures – for which "health information technology is essential," she said.

Corrigan's discussion, "Future Directions in Quality Measurement: Implications for HIT," identified those measures and described how they're essential to value-based purchasing, public reporting, meaningful use and quality improvement – in short, all the vehicles that will be essential to "move forward in building high-value health systems" and bring about "fundamental reform."

Performance measures are "a tool," she said. "Nothing more than a tool. But they are a very important tool."

As such, Corrigan called for "measures and incentives at every level – embedded in the payment programs and public reporting efforts at every layer of the healthcare system."

Still, she emphasized, it's important to "prioritize" and also "focus on measures that matter."

Also critical to that portfolio of standardized measures, useful for all types of providers and levels of care, is that they be embedded in accountability programs – but done so in a way that is aligned across all of them.

"Providers cannot deal with different demands in different payment and public reporting programs," said Corrigan, noting that there are now "more than 100 public reporting programs at the local level alone," to say nothing of federal programs.

Without a smart approach to quality measurement, we "run the risk of extraordinary burden and losing the focus of the providers on the front lines," she said.

But it's clear these measures are vital to bringing about badly-needed change across healthcare. At the end of the day, said Corrigan, a smart, IT-enabled utilization of performance measures represents "a huge opportunity to turn this big ship around."