Quality Measures: How to Get Them Right
Pay-for-performance programs have produced disappointing results. Fewer and more appropriate, evidence-based quality measures could help.
Fam Pract Manag. 2018 Jul-Aug;25(4):23-28.
Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.
- BUILDING A BETTER MEASURING STICK
- 1. THE ASSESSED OUTCOME MATTERS TO PATIENTS
- 2. THE PATIENT WILL EXPERIENCE A NET BENEFIT
- 3. IMPLEMENTING THE MEASURE IMPROVES OUTCOMES
- 4. IMPLEMENTING THE MEASURE USES AN APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES
- 5. THE PATIENT RETAINS HIS OR HER AUTONOMY
- 6. “GAMING” OR MANIPULATION IS NOT ENCOURAGED
- 7. THE DENOMINATOR IS CLEARLY SPECIFIED
- 8. THE NUMERATOR IS CLEARLY SPECIFIED
- 9. THE PHYSICIAN CAN INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME
- 10. SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH ARE CONSIDERED
- NEXT STEPS
The way we deliver and pay for health care in the United States has changed significantly in the last 50 years. The current emphasis on value-based care over traditional fee for service has led to the development of more than 2,500 quality measures1 used to incentivize physicians and health care organizations to improve quality of care and reduce cost. The latest and most comprehensive effort to tie quality measurement to payment is the Quality Payment Program, which resulted from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). (See “Pay for performance and cost control: a brief history.”)
The proliferation of health care quality measures and pay-for- performance programs has not led to significant improvements in patient outcomes but has contributed to greater administrative burdens for physicians.
Some groups are working to consolidate the number of quality measures, especially measures with unclear benefits or a lack of evidentiary support.
Quality measures should emphasize outcomes important to patients, provide them with a net benefit, and preserve their autonomy.
Quality measures should also encourage behavior that leads to improved health, offer benefits that outweigh the resource expenditure, discourage “gaming,” be specific, focus on outcomes the physician can influence, and consider social determinants of health.
Despite the proliferation of quality measures and the pay-for-performance (P4P) systems that use them, there is little evidence of resulting positive changes in physician behavior or patient outcomes.2–4 Instead, most P4P systems have led to significant administrative burdens5 and unintended consequences.6 Quality measures tied to financial incentives often crowd out the intrinsic motivation of physicians, particularly for complex cognitive tasks,7 devaluing the patient-physician relationship and contributing to clinician burnout.
PAY FOR PERFORMANCE AND COST CONTROL: A BRIEF HISTORY
Medicare – 1965
Medicare was established to provide health insurance to those 65 years of age and older, covering both inpatient and outpatient services. As access increased and technology advanced, costs soared. Between 1967 and 1983, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and hospitals increased tenfold,1 inspiring a priority shift in the 1980s from access to cost containment.
Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) and Relative Value Units (RVUs) – 1983
DRGs were introduced to replace fee-for-service with a prospective payment system based on the average cost to deliver care for a specific “case.” The complex formula was primarily designed to encourage inefficient hospitals to improve. In 1983, Medicare also introduced the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale, which pays physicians based on the number of RVUs assigned to services. RVUs are based on time spent, required skill and training of the physician, practice expenses, and malpractice expense. Over time, this system came to overvalue procedural services at
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5. Casalino LP, Gans D, Weber R, et al. U.S. physician practices spend more than $15.4 billion annually to report quality measures. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016;35(3):401–406.
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