3 ways to make physician feedback reports more effective

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Improvements are needed to make physician feedback reports effective. (Getty/michaelquirk)

Feedback reports aimed at improving the performance of physicians are becoming more common, but they aren't necessarily effective, according to two officials from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Successful quality improvement efforts must be anchored in valid and reliable performance data that can be presented to physicians in a way that engages them, write Peggy McNamara, a senior analyst at the agency, and Robert J. McNellis, senior advisor for primary care, in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst.

RELATED: Point/counterpoint—Does quality reporting improve physicians' clinical performance or hurt it?

They suggest several steps that organizations can take to ensure that feedback reports actually lead to improvement. Here are three of them:

Make sure changes in physician behavior can influence the clinical measures targeted in feedback reports. The physician should have control over one or more activities that positively or negatively influence a reported measure, they said. 

Ensure physicians understand the importance of a targeted clinical measure.  Make sure that the information includes well-supported evidence for a measure. The report should include links to clinically relevant evidence that physicians can review.

Be sure goals are set for the targeted performance or behavior. Ideally, goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound, the two authors said. For instance, the physician may be expected to improve screening rates by 10% or have a performance goal that 80% of patients have their blood pressure under control.