Study: 98 days, $15.4 billion lost annually to reporting quality metrics

Accreditation Insider, March 15, 2016

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The average medical practice spends 785 hours a year on quality measure reporting. That’s equivalent to 98 eight-hour days being used to check boxes and fill out text fields. While 81 days of that work is done by other staff, the remaining 17 falls on physicians to complete. 

The cost of this loss of time? Around $40,069 per physician. Industrywide, this is equal to $15.4 billion lost annually. The results of the 394 medical practices studied also found that 80% claim that they’ve had to spend an increasing amount of time reporting on quality measures. 

The study was published in the March issue of Health Affairs. During an interview with HealthLeaders Media, lead study author Lawrence Casalino, MD, said that three out of four physicians believe that current quality measures don’t reflect the best measures of quality. 

 “The general physician perception is that only 27% of practices thought the measures were moderately or highly representative of their quality of care,” he said. “The percentage that actually used the measures to improve quality in their practice was similar.”

Casalino and other researchers compared medical practices specializing in cardiology, orthopedics, primary care, and multispecialty for their study. They found that in one week a single physician generates about 15.1 hours’ worth of quality data that needs reporting. In the face of this time commitment, many physicians question the value of the measures they have to report on.

“The physicians' view is that some of the quality measures record things that are real, but maybe not as important as things that aren't measured,” he said. “It's like looking for the keys under the lamppost because that's where the light is better. For example, diagnosis. How well a physician does diagnosis is not measured by any quality measure, but that may be the most important single thing a physician does.”

A bulk of the problem lies with the fact that most healthcare insurers have their own unique quality measurement systems. During a recent press conference, Douglas Henley, MD, FAAFP, CEO of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said that the average family physician deals with seven or more payers, both public or private.

“And each of those payers have their own performance measure system and set of measures,” he said. “Even if those measures seem the same, the way you report and relate those measures to payers may [differ] from one to another.”

The number of quality measurement systems is expected to decrease after the February announcement of new, nationally accepted core quality measures sets. The new measures are being phased in by CMS and 70% of private insurers.  Casalino said that this, along with better designed electronic medical records, could be a huge help in streamlining the quality reporting process. 

Read the full HealthLeaders interview with Casalino for more on the costs of quality reporting and how to fix it.

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