The time physician practices spend tracking and reporting quality measures to Medicare and private health insurers amounts to about $15.4 billion annually, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs.
The study, conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Medical Group Management Association, sought to estimate the cost associated with the time providers spend on quality measures, such as entering data into EHRs.
For the study, researchers surveyed 394 providers from four specialties:
- General internists;
- Orthopedics; and
- Primary care.
The survey asked providers about how much time they spent collecting quality data. Researchers then converted the time into costs based on specialists' salaries.
Survey respondents reported spending an average of 785 hours per physician annually on reporting and entering quality data.
When converted to costs, the researchers found that:
- Primary care practices spent nearly $50,500 annually tracking and reporting quality measures;
- Cardiology practices spent nearly $35,000; and
- Orthopedic practices spent more than $31,000.
The study also found that:
- 81 percent of respondents said they spent more or much more time dealing with external quality measures than three years ago; and
- Only 27 percent said they thought current measures are moderately or very representative of the quality of care.
CMS, insurers agree on standardized quality measures
The study found that, across all specialties, licensed practical nurses and medical assistants reported spending the most time inputting quality measure data for external entities. In primary care settings, for example, nurses and assistants spent an average of 7.8 hours per week on external reporting tasks—while physicians spent an average of 3.9 hours per week.
The researchers noted several limits to their study, including that providers who feel negatively toward quality measures may have been more likely to respond.
They concluded, "There is much to gain from quality measurement, but the current system is far from being efficient and contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures" (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 3/7; Mershon, Politico Pro, 3/7 [subscription required]).
What you need to know about quality reporting
Ever feel like you're drowning in reporting requirements? Our infographic maps out the quality reporting programs for physicians and hospitals, data sources that are needed to report on each, and the programs that contain overlapping measures to help you limit duplicative tracking.
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