NQF group calls on HHS to remove quality measures that create 'unintended consequences'

A compass pointing to the word "quality."
MAP has issued its annual analysis of federal quality measures. (Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

The National Quality Forum's Measure Applications Partnership has released its annual guidance, and this year's report focuses on ways HHS can better align measures and ease administrative burden on providers. 

Last year, MAP recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eliminate 51 of the 240 measures used in seven federal programs to determine payments. That trend continues this year, with the group suggesting in its latest report that HHS remove measures in hospital payment programs that may have "unintended consequences." 

Some measures, according to MAP, may encourage hospitals to give patients unnecessary treatments or make it harder for vulnerable patients to access care, and should be considered for removal.  

HHS should prioritize measures that are easy to implement and can be used across different care settings, which can push hospitals to more internal quality improvement initiatives. 

"These latest recommendations are about getting to actionable, meaningful information for patients and clinicians, while minimizing unnecessary burden and using quality improvement measures," said Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., CEO of NQF, in an announcement

RELATED: CMS releases 32 quality measures under consideration for 2018 

MAP also released two reports analyzing measures used for other clinician programs as well as post-acute and long-term care providers. It also noted the potential for "unintended consequences" in clinical areas outside the hospital, as low burden measures may take priority over measures that are more clinically valuable but require more reporting effort. 

Physicians are often inundated with paperwork and administrative tasks, which lead to burnout and stress, so easing that workload has been a crucial initiative in the healthcare industry. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has launched the "Patients Over Paperwork" program to tackle the problem. 

MAP suggested that composite measures focused on outcomes are ideal and that there needs to be a broad range of measures applicable to different physician specialties and care settings. 

RELATED: Providers call for transparent quality standards 

There may be opportunity to eliminate some measures applied to post-acute and long-term care providers, according to a third report. It recommends that CMS align measures within removal criteria to determine if some can be cut. 

However, measures applicable to specific care settings, such as home health, should be kept in place, according to the report.

MAP was convened in 2011, and since then, the group has issued an annual analysis on federal quality measures. It includes more than 150 healthcare leaders from 90 organizations who regularly work with the studied measures.