News Briefs

QIO developing outpatient quality measures

Under a new contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality (OFMQ) will collaborate with The Joint Commission to develop the first national standardized quality measures to assess performance in hospital outpatient facilities. The measures will be used by CMS for public reporting, performance-based financial incentives, and quality improvement.

The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 provides for the development of measures to assess the quality of care furnished by hospital outpatient settings, which may include emergency rooms, hospital-affiliated clinics, and ambulatory surgery facilities.

The contract calls for the development of technical specifications and a pilot test of an initial set of five measures to be released this summer.

Health leaders name quality 'favorites'

Health information technology, public reporting of quality measures, and financial incentives to improve care are among the strategies favored by health leaders to improve health care quality and safety, according to a new survey by the Commonwealth Fund. The survey, entitled, "Health Care Opinion Leaders' Views on the Quality and Safety of Health Care in the United States," is the 11th Commonwealth Fund Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey.

The on-line survey was completed by 214 opinion leaders in health policy, health care delivery, and finance. Nine in 10 respondents said Medicare should require all health care providers to use electronic health records within 10 years, and 70% said the federal government should play a leading role in financing health IT. Six in 10 respondents support public reporting on health care provider performance, and five in 10 support pay for performance and other financial incentives to improve health care quality. Three-quarters of respondents favor reforming Medicare payment to encourage "medical homes" that coordinate patient care.

Favored strategies for improvement include accelerating the adoption of health information technology, public reporting of providers' performance on quality-of-care measures, financial incentives for improved care, and stronger regulatory oversight. Opinion leaders' survey responses closely align with the principles put forward by the Commonwealth Fund's Commission on a High Performance Health System.

The Joint Commission names new president

The Joint Commission has appointed Mark Chassin, MD, its next president. The appointment will be effective Jan. 1, 2008, when Dennis O'Leary will become president emeritus. Chassin is an executive vice president at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and chair of the health policy department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he has focused on quality improvement initiatives. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and co-chaired its National Roundtable on Health Care Quality, and is a former commissioner of the New York State Department of Health.

This year's 'Most Wired' take balanced approach

A "balanced scorecard" approach has replaced the dominant role of financial assessments in evaluating information technology (IT) plans among the nation's "100 Most Wired Hospitals and Health Systems," identified by the 9th annual survey and benchmarking study by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

The foundation of the new approach — which puts non-financial quantifiers on an equal basis with return on investment — is measurement, the survey found. This year's "most wired" hospitals show better outcomes in four key areas:

  • mortality rates;
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality patient safety measures;
  • Hospital Compare core measures;
  • average length of stay.

Each year since 1999 Hospitals & Health Networks has surveyed the nation's hospitals on their use of IT to accomplish key strategic and operational goals. This year, 541 surveys were submitted by hospitals and health systems representing 1,217 hospitals.

Compared with other organizations, the Most Wired:

  • Conduct more pre- and post-implementation evaluations of IT projects.
  • Maintain a larger proportion of their medical records in a paperless format.
  • Provide digital imaging to more clinical disciplines in a wider range of settings.
  • Employ a broader set of telemedicine services.
  • Deploy more IT educational resources for staff.