U.S. practices spend billions to report current healthcare quality measures

By Matt Kuhrt

With its finding that U.S. medical practices pay out more than $15.4 billion per year to measure their progress against quality measures, a study published in Health Affairs questions the healthcare system's return on investment under the current system imposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

A random survey of 1,000 practices selected from the Medical Group Management Association's (MGMA) membership found physicians and staff spend 15.1 hours engaged in quality measure reporting each week, according to an article in Medscape Medical News. That sums to an average of $40,069 per year for each doctor, an amount of time and money that more than 80 percent of responding practices indicated was higher compared to three years ago.

As Medscape notes, the industry's move to embrace value-based care has been the primary driver of the increased need for quality measure reporting. That industry shift has been complicated by the struggle to define a standard set of quality metrics, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported. The Health Affairs study puts some numbers around the literal cost to quantify and report those measures, even as reports show some of the measures themselves coming under fire.

The study's authors see an urgent need for greater efficiency. While they acknowledge the benefits of quality measurement, they argue that the inefficiency of the current system "contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures."

For its part, the MGMA responded forcefully to the findings via a statement emailed to FiercePracticeManagement from President and CEO Halee Fischer-Wright, who called the expenditures an "obscene waste," and suggested the study had proven "that the current top-down approach has failed." She went on to call on the government to "get out of the business of dictating patient care through wasteful mandates and create simplified systems to support medical practices in improving quality across the country."

To learn more:
- see the study abstract
- read the Medscape article