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GAO Calls for Meaningful, Better-Aligned Health Care Quality Measures

FierceHealthcare (10/14/16) Hall, Susan D.

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to set priorities in order to better align health care quality measures across payers and programs. In the report, GAO cites three factors behind the current misalignment: dispersed decision-making, variation, and a lack of meaningful measures. The agency notes that among public and private payers, each decides independently which quality measures to use and which specifications apply. Variation in data collection and reporting systems refers to physicians who may collect data using different electronic health record (EHR) systems, paper records, or clinical data registries, with many details left to provider discretion. In the absence of standard measures, EHR vendors have little incentive to design systems to facilitate data collection and reporting. GAO also says that although hundreds of quality measures have been developed, few are seen as leading to meaningful improvements in quality. The GAO report recommends that HHS direct the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop a comprehensive plan, including timelines, for more meaningful quality measures that promote better alignment. In addition, it calls for CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to prioritize development of electronic quality measures and, in particular, standardized data elements to report on those core measures.

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