Quality measures 'making a difference'

Health IT, aligned incentives help spur big gains over past decade, says CMS
By Mike Miliard
10:21 AM

Thanks to committed pursuit of its quality measurement programs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the U.S. has made "clear progress" in achieving better care at lower cost for healthier populations.

[See also: Quality measures 'need refinement']

In a blog post announcing the release of the 2015 National Impact Assessment of Quality Measures Report, Patrick Conway, MD, chief medical officer at CMS, said the study is meant to offer comprehensive assessment of the quality measures used by the agency.

Findings from the report include research on 25 CMS quality programs and hundreds of quality measures from 2006 to 2013.

[See also: CMS adds more quality reporting requirements]

"The transformation is occurring across the healthcare system, in part due to key CMS initiatives, such as health information technology, aligned payment incentives and quality measurement," according to CMS.

Among the biggest highlights, quality measurement results are showing "significant improvement," Conway writes, with 95 percent of 119 publicly reported performance rates – across seven quality reporting programs – showing an uptick between 2006 and 2012.

Moreover, roughly 35 percent of the 119 measures were classified as "high performing," he adds – meaning that performance rates exceeding 90 percent were achieved in each of the most recent three years for which data were available.  

Care disparities across and racial and ethnic groups have also become less evident since 2006, according to CMS. Quality measures for Hispanics, African-American and Asians showed the most improvement, while American Indian/Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders the least.

Providers' performance on measures related to heart and surgical care showed improvement, too: From 2006 to 2012, roughly 7,000-10,000 lives were saved through better performance on inpatient hospital heart failure process measures, and 4,000 to 7,000 infections were averted through improved performance on inpatient hospital surgical process measures, according to Conway.

"Quality measurement is a key lever that CMS uses to drive the transformation of the healthcare system in partnership with hospitals, clinicians, and patients," he writes. "We will use the results from the 2015 Impact Report to refine our CMS quality measurement strategies, better understand the measures that have worked well, and guide the development and application of measures going forward."

Access the full 2015 Impact Report here.

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