Physicians often complain about the time they have to spend filling out documentation and other forms to report quality measure information.
A new study published in Health Affairs attempted to quantify the problem and found that practices in primary care and three other common specialties spend an average of 785 hours per physician annually on entering quality information into computers, reviewing quality reports generated by external entities, tracking quality measure specifications, implementing processes for collecting data, and transmitting that information to third parties for quality measurement.
Multiplied by the average compensation for each type of physician and staff member, the study estimated U.S. practices spend more than $15.4 billion a year to report these quality measures.
Of the four specialties – which included primary care (family medicine and internal medicine), cardiology, orthopedics, and multispecialty practices that included primary care – the primary care physicians spent the most time and money on quality measures.
The study said those practices spent an average of 19.1 hours per physician per week on quality measurement with the physicians alone spending 3.9 hours. Annually, those practices spent an average of $50,468 per physician.
By comparison, cardiology practices said they spent 10.4 hours a week (1.7 hours for physician only) and $34,924 a year while orthopedic practices said they spent 11.3 hours a week (1.1 hours for physician) and $31,471 a year.
Multispecialty practices said they spent 17.6 hours a week. Researchers did not include financial information for multispecialty practices because the practices include specialties outside the study’s scope.
The study, paid for by The Physicians Foundation, was based on surveys of more than 300 practices contacted through the Medical Group Management Association database.
Researchers said 81 percent of respondents reported spending more time and money meeting quality measurement requirements now than three years ago and only 27 percent said they believed the measures actually represented quality care.
In addition, the report found that federal programs, state and regional agencies, and health insurers often use hundreds of quality measures that share very little in common with one another, compounding the work practices must perform to comply with all their requirements.
“There is much to gain from quality measurement,” the study authors write, "but the current system is far from being efficient and contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures.”
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