NQF publishes guide to reduce variation in quality measures

An analysis commissioned by the National Quality Forum identified 1,367 quality measures used by 48 state and regional programs — but only 509 of them were distinct. The more than 800 remaining measures overlapped or had similar focus but different variations in specifications.

"Quality measures are essential blocks in large-scale public- and private-payer efforts to reform the nation's healthcare system," said Helen Darling, the interim president and CEO of NQF. "But slightly different versions of the same measure contribute to waste through reporting burden for providers and make performance comparisons more difficult."

In December, NQF published a report — funded by HHS — focused on how to reduce the unintended variation between quality measures. It was put together by a 16-member panel, which represented experts in measure development and implementation, health informaticists, provider groups, purchasers, payers and others who use reported measures.

Here are four key points from the report.

1. The panel defined variation as "any deviation from a reference measure's specifications."

2. Variation often is related to data availability, measure complexity and communication, the panel concluded.

3. Therefore, according to the report, strategies to prevent variation are focused on access to measures, data collection strategies, implementation guidance, benchmarking against set standards, transparency regarding communication and collaboration through feedback loops and forums.

4. The report provides stakeholders with "a methodical approach to improve the comparability and interpretability of measure results, while reducing the burden of duplicative measures."

"We have an urgent need to focus on the measures that really matter for quality improvement," said Helen Burstin, MD, chief scientific officer with NQF. "To make care better for patients, in addition to reducing variations in measures, it's also important that we eliminate measures that are duplicative, ineffective or that have reached the limits of their usefulness."

Access the full report here.

More articles on quality measurement:
2016 Baldrige Quality Award recipients named: 5 things to know
NQF announces winners of innovation challenge to improve quality measures
Hospital quality measures need work: Mass General experts weigh in

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