Better quality measures mean better quality care

Healthcare has a long way to go to close quality and cost gaps, a task that requires meaningful, well-understood quality measures, former Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan, M.D., told the Senate Finance Committee yesterday at a hearing on healthcare quality.

At Wednesday's hearing, lawmakers and healthcare leaders called on Congress to streamline numerous and diverse quality improvement initiatives and develop better ways to gauge quality to direct patients to high-performing providers, MedPage Today reported.

"We don't have reliable, widely available quality measures for most of the things that really matter to patients, like the experience of care for patients like them, or measures related to their outcomes like how well they can function, work, and undertake their activities of daily life," McCellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in his testimony.

Christine K. Cassel, M.D., incoming president and CEO of National Quality Forum, echoed those sentiments in her testimony, telling Congress that successful quality improvement efforts depend on the use of high-quality measures. "For quality measurement to have an impact, the measures must be understandable to patients and payers; they need to be actionable by providers," she said.

To develop meaningful quality measures that reflect outcomes and experiences, McClellan recommends an incremental shift to payments that focus on episode or person level of care. He urged Congress to consider legislation that moves away from paying for specific services and toward patient- or case-level payments that would build momentum for improving patient care.

For more:
- check out the hearing
- read McCellan's testimony (.pdf)
- here's Cassel's testimony (.pdf)
- read the MedPage article