NQF: Feds must eliminate ineffective quality measures

A compass pointing to the word "quality."
Eliminating certain quality measures would reduce the administrative burden on doctors, according to the National Quality Forum's Measure Applications Partnership. (Photo credit: Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

For the first time in its six-year history, the National Quality Forum’s Measure Applications Partnership is advocating that federal agencies remove several healthcare performance measures.

MAP typically offers the Department of Health & Human Services new measures or improvements to consider adding to existing measures, but for this report the group took a look at older performance metrics to determine which ones the agency could potentially eliminate. In its report, MAP recommends that HHS remove 51 of 240 measures that are included in seven federal programs used to determine payment. It also offered recommendations to improve performance measures in nine federal programs.

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The group's goal is to reduce the administrative burden on providers to ensure that the government applies the most useful performance metrics to gauge quality. Ronald Walters, M.D., co-chair of MAP’s Hospital Work Group and associate vice president of medical operations and informatics at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said at a press briefing that that the measures recommended for removal aren’t providing information that would lead to meaningful care improvements.

Physicians in any setting are often swamped with paperwork and other uncompensated administrative duties, which contributes to burnout, stress and job dissatisfaction. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has launched a program to tackle the issue.

“Wouldn’t you rather have your doctor spend more time caring for you rather than on paperwork that really doesn’t help to improve your care?” Walters said. “But it’s also the case that there are areas of care for which there are too few measures to really drive improvement. It’s that back-and-forth balancing of too few and too many.”

MAP includes more than 150 healthcare leaders from 90 organizations, both public and private. It issues multiple reports each year with recommendations for improving quality measures. Its recommendations do not take into account the processes that HHS and CMS would have to use to make adjustments to measures, which could be complex and involve rule adjustments, the group said in an announcement.