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Post COVID-19 – Can We Measure Only What Matters?

By Dr. Betty Rabinowitz, MD FACP

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In his 2016 paper1 Don Berwick, the former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator, bemoaned the excessive “quality” measurement that was being imposed on providers, much of which was in his words “useless but nonetheless mandated.” 

Dr. Berwick called on CMS, commercial insurers, and regulators working with the National Quality Forum, to commit to reducing (by 50% in 3 years and by 75% in 6 years) the volume and total cost of measurements currently being used and enforced in health care. “The aim should be to measure only what matters, and mainly for learning”1.  At the time Dr. Berwick published his Era 3 for Medicine paper, U.S. physician practices in four common specialties were spending, on average, 785 hours per physician per year and more than $15.4 billion dealing with the reporting of quality measures2.  

Sadly, four years after the call to reduce redundant and excessive quality measurement, little has been achieved.  Physicians continue to be required to participate in multiple quality programs, all of which apply different measures and specifications for reporting and program success. As a result, practices have been focused on “studying for the quality test” rather than on meaningful measurement of the quality of care they are providing.  Despite the proliferation in quality measures and quality measurement programs associated with almost all value-based care contracts, very few actually measure patient outcomes in a meaningful way.  

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a watershed event for the American healthcare system.  A watershed event is defined as a “turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A watershed moment is a dividing point, from which things will never be the same”3. Much has been written on the impact of the pandemic on the rise of telehealth and virtual visits. Many believe that the way patients interact with the healthcare system will never return to the ante pandemic status quo.  This shift was enabled by significant rapid regulatory changes that supported relaxation of the privacy requirements for telehealth visits and at the same time created payment parity between in person and virtual visits4.  This shift demonstrated the kind of will and action that will be necessary to bring meaningful change to the state of quality measurement as it exists today.  It is clear that only an event of this magnitude will be able to catalyze foundational change of this type.  

We are hopeful that post COVID-19, CMS will lead the way in simplifying and standardizing the current quality measurement requirements in its programs.  To be effective, it will be essential for commercial payers to follow suit, adopting a streamlined uniform national set of measures focused on gauging patient outcomes and practice pattern variation, elements that have proven to be at the core of true quality.  If we were able to drive record adoption of telehealth in the midst of a crisis, we certainly should be able to create true quality measurement programs when the crisis is behind us.  

Berwick DM. Era 3 for Medicine and Health Care. JAMA. 2016;315(13):1329–1330. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1509

http://www.content.healthaffairs.org/content/35/3/401.abstract

3 https://www.grammarist.com/idiom/watershed-moment/

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet


Dr. Betty Rabinowitz, MD FACP

Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Betty Rabinowitz was appointed as our chief medical officer on April 19, 2018. She brings to this position more than 25 years of extensive clinical experience and expansive knowledge of population health and value-based practice transformation. In her role, Betty is tasked with helping NextGen Healthcare promote and improve our solutions in support of our clients’ provider performance, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and financial efficiency…

Dr. Betty Rabinowitz was appointed as our chief medical officer on April 19, 2018. She brings to this position more than 25 years of extensive clinical experience and expansive knowledge of population health and value-based practice transformation. In her role, Betty is tasked with helping NextGen Healthcare promote and improve our solutions in support of our clients’ provider performance, clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and financial efficiency.

Betty joined the NextGen Healthcare family in August 2017 as one of the founders and the former chief executive officer of EagleDream Health, the cloud-based analytics and population health management solutions we now know as NextGen® Population Health, which drives meaningful insights across clinical, financial, and administrative data to optimize ambulatory practice performance.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. Rabinowitz graduated from Ben-Gurion University Medical School in Israel, where she also completed a residency in Internal Medicine. She came to the United States in 1990 for a fellowship in Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, where she became a professor of clinical medicine. In addition, Dr. Rabinowitz served as the medical director of the University of Rochester’s Center for Primary Care, overseeing clinical operations and population health management for the university’s large employed primary care network. In 2020, she was named on the list of the Top 25 Woman in Healthcare Software by the Healthcare Technology Report.

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