NQF issues new guidance on federal healthcare quality measures

A partnership that aims to help the federal government select performance measures has issued recommendations on new quality measures for several federal healthcare programs, including the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

The National Quality Forum's Measure Applications Partnership was established to take a coordinated look across federal programs to evaluate performance measures. The group announced it considered 60 performance measures for use in MIPS, which combines the Physician Quality Reporting System, the Value Modifier and the Medicare Electronic Health Record incentive program into one program.

It recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 

  • Improve measurement gaps in clinician level-programs, which are particularly pronounced for patient-centered measures such as functional status, patient-reported outcomes and care coordination
  • Align measures across federal programs, including MIPS, alternative payment models, and state and private-sponsored programs, where possible, 
  • Explore how sociodemographic factors affect measure results, echoing a common complaint levied against federal readmission penalties

The guidance also noted that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has stepped up public reporting of clinician measures through its Physician Compare website. Last year, the agency introduced a five-star patient-experience rating scale for the site, later adding data for critical access providers after outcry over their initial omission.

The Measure Applications Partnership also suggested that the federal government add five measures to the MSSP program that focus on acute and chronic care populations. The group also released a report that looks back on its five years of recommendations to HHS on what performance measures it should include in federal healthcare reporting programs. 

Meanwhile, CMS is working to establish the ideal time period for quality reporting, according to MedPageToday. While historically the performance period has been a year, providers have often requested an additional three to four months to finish reporting, CMS Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, M.D., told the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee, according to the article.

"A few years ago, we asked physician and clinician groups if they wanted to do quarterly reporting like hospitals, which allows for more rapid feedback; we heard at that time they didn't want to do that--they wanted an annual reporting cycle," Conway said. "But we'll be making a proposal on the performance period, and we're looking for your feedback."

 To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- download the guidance (.pdf)
- read the report
- here's the MedPageToday article