ONC popHealth tool automates physician quality measure reporting

By Mary Mosquera
01:24 PM

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has made available a free tool to simplify the reporting by physicians and practices of clinical quality measures for meaningful use.

Although popHealth was just a concept a year ago, ONC has conducted real-world testing and is highlighting it as providers begin to demonstrate meaningful use.

popHealth is an open source reference implementation software service that automates the reporting of quality measures in stage one of meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), said Dr. Thomas Tsang, ONC’s medical director of meaningful use and quality. 

popHealth also streamlines the automated generation of summary quality measure reports on the provider’s patient population to support meaningful use calculations. It can report aggregate statistics, but also gives the provider the ability to drill down into individual patient records.

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“It gives an opportunity for providers at the push of a button to get real-time feedback about the 44 ambulatory care quality measures,” Tsang said June 15 at the Government Health IT Conference & Exhibition hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

The potential for the software goes even further in “actually linking the calculation of the quality measures in identifying the outliers so that the providers can actually take action with a laser focus approach and come up with interventions that target those outliers,” Tsang added.

Providers can use the popHealth software service or vendors can use the reference implementation model to incorporate the feature in their health IT products, said Maggie Lohnes, healthcare principal at Mitre, which is engineering the tool for ONC. Mitre is a not-for profit research and engineering organization.

popHealth is in pilot with a Staten Island, NY, solo practitioner using it with eClinical Works’ EHR, one in North Carolina using AthenaHealth, and a third one starts in Chicago next week, she said.

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The tool uses standard clinical data from the extensible mark-up language (XML) continuity of care formats required in the current meaningful use certification program. Those two standards are Health Level 7’s Continuity of Care C32 Document (CCD) and the ASTM International’s Continuity of Care Record (CCR).

“Providers can be confident about the system because it has been tested with clinical quality measure developers and can rely on the results,” she said. 

Providers must use required standards for the tool to capture all the measures. One lesson learned from the pilots is that providers don’t always use standard code sets consistently, for example, the use of Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) for lab and clinical identifiers, despite the meaningful use measures requiring them, Lohnes said.