AHA chief criticizes National Quality Form plan

"Public accountability" should not be the primary goal of any data collection program aimed at quality improvement in health care, says Rick Pollack, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association (AHA). A plan proposed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) is off-base for that reason, he says.

Pollack recently wrote Kenneth W. Kizer, MD, MPH, president and chief executive officer of the NQF with his concerns and made the letter public. Pollack’s comments represent the AHA’s official response to the National Quality Forum’s report, An Initial Measure Set for Hospital Performance Evaluation.

The AHA strongly supports the project’s aim to create a core set of quality measures for hospitals that will be used to assess and improve care, Pollack says.

"We firmly believe that a core set of measures should be used to provide valuable information for benchmarking and that a core measurement set should reduce the redundant and resource-consuming requests for data hospitals are currently subject to from external organizations, including government, accreditors, managed care plans, and employers," he says.

But Pollack goes on to say that "we strongly believe that quality data should first and foremost be used to promote learning and improvement. We disagree with the NQF’s assertion that the primary purpose should be for public accountability.’ Further, while ideally a core set of measures should help ease the burden associated with data collection, the report gives scanty attention to this important issue. The report should be more specific about the need to reduce this burden and the discordant messages sent to hospitals and other providers when different measurement sets are used."

Pollack also cautions that it will also be critical for the NQF to utilize its consensus process to secure an understanding and commitment among private and public entities about what and how much "core data" are important to collect.

"Part of the NQF’s mission was to reduce the hodgepodge of information and resources expended in meeting the demands of disparate measurement efforts. Creating a core set of measures is only half the battle; now we must agree on an over-arching measurement strategy and framework," he explains.

The NQF did not immediately issue a response to the AHA’s letter but indicated that all comments will be considered when finalizing the plan.