National Quality Forum: Healthcare must make better use of its data

Data has the potential to improve healthcare, but the industry must make better use of the information being generated in order to do so systematically, according to a paper from the National Quality Forum.

The paper summarizes discussions with a range of stakeholders about the challenges limiting the use of data in widespread systematic improvement and the data infrastructure necessary for spreading successful care models. It also outlines steps for payers, providers, electronic health record vendors and others.

Among the challenges cited:


  • Lack of interoperability and difficulty in linking disparate data sources
  • Leveraging data for benchmarking and quality improvement
  • Ensuring data are meaningful and clinically relevant
  • De-identification and aggregation for generating knowledge

One common theme was that the problem isn't a lack of data, but more the ability to use and apply the data toward improvement. In many cases, the technological issues were relatively straightforward, albeit still difficult, but an organization's ability to use data depends on complex factors, ranging from workforce skills to organizational culture.

Participants said there are too few tools to help clinicians use data effectively. They added that the healthcare workforce needs training and practice applying process improvement tools, identifying the potential benefits and limitations of the data and analyzing information.

They also cited difficulty in scaling up what works best. The organization's culture, leadership commitment and communication play important roles in using data effectively.

Christine Cassel, M.D., CEO and president of NQF, told the Congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives earlier this year that the primary issue with the recent proliferation of quality metrics is that many need to have more science behind them.

NQF has been advocating for more accurate, meaningful quality reporting frameworks that can advance performance improvement and better outcomes deeper into the core of the healthcare system.

To learn more:
- read the paper (.pdf)

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