Quest for healthcare 'measures that matter' raises its own issues

In the push for improved healthcare delivery, many in the industry seek to find "measures that matter"--that is, paring down the care quality measures to only the most meaningful measures. But one important question still remains, argues a Health Affairs blog post--to whom do these measures matter?

The answer is complicated because different factions often have clashing views on which information is most important--and there is often variation within these groups as well, write authors Bruce Siegel, M.D., president and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals, Christine Cassel, planning dean of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine and Robert Saunders, senior advisor to the president at the National Quality Forum. For example:

  • Patients and their caregivers want patient-centered information specific to their circumstances. Limited access to such information may help explain why few patients and consumers use publicly-available health information, the authors write.
  • Frontline clinicians need metrics they can use to improve their performances, and are often stymied by lack of specific high-quality outcomes measures; in addition, placing the burden of measurement on them makes clinicians more susceptible to burnout, particularly those who work in the emergency department.
  • Healthcare providers may be concerned about matters outside of their direct control, such as those that come down to environmental factors, according to the post.  

To address this challenge, the National Quality Forum (NQF) has developed the "Measure Incubator," an initiative to promote measure development and more efficient testing, particularly targeting care outcomes underserved by existing measures.

In many cases, these gaps exist simply because of how much time and effort it takes to develop and test measures--as long as three years, in some cases. The NQF's Measure Incubator operates similarly to entrepreneur-nurturing initiatives, connecting groups with similar interests with experts, data sets and resources.

"What sets this approach apart and makes it innovative is having continuous access to data to test and adjust measures to reduce measure development time," the announcement states. "The Measure Incubator also holds promise to reduce the time and expense of real-world testing and make measure development more efficient by standardizing best practices in measure development."

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