CDC: Meaningful Use eCQMs 'invaluable' for tracking public health

Electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) from electronic health records will be "invaluable" for monitoring clinical conditions, according to a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, dated May 1, analyzes the data from eCQMs collected as part of the Meaningful Use program to determine what progress, if any, has been made toward achieving blood pressure control among patients with hypertension. Several of the optional eCQMs are aligned with the clinical performance goals of the Department of Health and Human Services' Million Hearts initiative, which aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 and encourages providers to have at least 70 percent of their patients with hypertension to have their blood pressure controlled. 

The data shows that 62 percent of the patients had controlled blood pressure, a number that remained unchanged during all three years of reporting. At least one third met the Million Hearts goal 70 percent goal.

"This analysis demonstrates the potential for electronic CQM reporting to be used for monitoring population health," the report's authors conclude. "State and local public health agencies can partner with state, regional, or local health information exchanges; the state primary care association; the state Medicaid program; and health systems to explore the use of existing EHR data for surveillance while still ensuring appropriate safeguards to maintain patient privacy. Federal public health and healthcare agencies can collaborate to improve the strength and usability of EHR data as appropriate infrastructure at the state and local levels is being built and interoperability standards are being developed. As EHR implementation becomes more widespread, the data collected by these systems will be invaluable for monitoring numerous clinical conditions."

In a related blog post, Thomas Mason, M.D., chief medical officer for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and Janet Wright, M.D., executive director of the Million Hearts initiative, noted that while EHRs are tools that can't be used in isolation, "[t]he report shows that, for the first time, data reported as part of the incentive programs, or Meaningful Use, could improve the timeliness and possibly completeness of data used to track issues of public health concern."

Electronic reporting to public health agencies and registries is an important way to identify disease outbreaks, track illnesses and assess care delivery. Improved public health reporting both to and from providers and agencies would make the data bases more accurate and the information more useful and effective.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the blog post

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