5 ways to link health information technology, quality measurement

A new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) summarizes the comments it received on its July 2012 request for information and from focus groups on how to enhance quality measurement through health information technology.

The 111-page report breaks the input down into three types of findings: "Perspectives" notes that different stakeholders have different views, and their opinions might vary in different situations. The perspectives section focus on linking quality measurement with systemic improvement, maximizing the capabilities of health IT, and understanding the tradeoffs involved in incorporating measurement with workflow. "Pathways" outlines critical topic areas to be addressed. "Practical guidance" outlines more than 100 practical steps organizations can take.

Here are five suggestions from the report:

  • Measure development: Evaluate measures currently used for public reporting, their intended purpose, and whether they are really making a difference.
  • Identify data elements: Identify critical pieces of information that need to be added in the electronic record to achieve desired measures. Assess where EHRs have the best data versus where the best data can and should be obtained from other places.
  • Connect data sources: Connect EHRs, personal health records (PHRs), other clinical data sources (registries, laboratory data, vital records and other sources) with administrative data sources via HIE to properly integrate bidirectional information needed for electronic quality measurement.
  • Engage patients: Offer town hall meetings, online forums, PHRs, or portals to facilitate consumer engagement. Determine and implement a way to directly ask patients/consumers what information they would like to have for shared decision-making.
  • Collaborate and educate: Develop a common vocabulary between measure developers and vendors. Better engage providers--particularly frontline providers, pharmacists and post acute care providers--in development and implementation.

"The importance of informed collaboration was a major theme throughout the development of this report," the AHRQ says. "Careful thought needs to go into the design of collaboratives to ensure engagement of the breadth and depth of stakeholder groups that is required for success."

It stresses the need for ongoing dialog and for organizations to periodically revisit their priorities. Patient input is vital, it says.

In a report evaluating 24 research projects it funded through its Quality Through Clinician Use of Health IT (IQHIT) initiative, AHRQ found that technology offering clinical decision support, clinical workflow support and care coordination can improve patient outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has put a $175 billion price tag on replacing the much-hated Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula by 2023 and replacing it with a system that rewards providers for high-quality care.

To learn more:
- find the report (.pdf)

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