3 ways to improve healthcare performance measurement

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Patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins say transparent, clear measures of healthcare quality are key to ensure that patients get the care they deserve, so they are calling on policymakers to clarify performance measurement standards.

Patients use such measures to guide their care choices, so it is vital that they understand performance reports, according to the paper, titled “Fostering Transparency in Outcomes, Quality, Safety and Costs.” The report (.pdf), penned by patient safety and quality experts at Johns Hopkins, seeks to alert policymakers to the need for clearer measures, according to the announcement.

“For over two decades, healthcare stakeholders have agreed that transparency in our industry is essential,” Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., director of Johns Hopkins’ Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, and one of the report’s authors, said in the announcement. “However, now is the time to improve and make systems more robust to ensure measurements are accurate. Besides, value-based payments require valid and reliable measures to function appropriately.”

The authors point to three “vital directions” that policymakers must take to improve performance measurement:

  • Create one body that sets health standards. The authors suggest modeling this group after an organization like the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which is nonprofit and sets accounting standards for public companies. The proposed body should be independent and also set standards for how data used to determine performance measures is gathered.
  • Make performance measures a science. Policymakers can push for funding to study the science of these markers, according to the report. They can also encourage collaboration between government agencies in this area and further promote efforts the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has already undertaken.
  • Make sure needed data is gathered effectively. With funding, policymakers can ensure research is done on how to best present information on quality and cost differences to patients.

The authors point to several potential challenges, too. Currently, measuring and reporting care quality is a multi-step process, and each additional step adds more room for error, according to the report. Funding to promote additional study is also limited, they noted.

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