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November 1, 2017

Verma announces CMS initiative to revise, simplify quality measures under federal health care programs

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    CMS Administrator Seema Verma on Monday announced a new federal initiative intended to simplify quality measures, reduce regulatory burdens, and spur innovation in the health care industry as it transitions toward value-based payments.

    Get the cheat sheets: How hospital quality ratings programs work

    Verma announced the effort, called the Meaningful Measures Initiative, at the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network Fall Summit.

    Initiative details

    Verma said the initiative "takes a new approach to quality measures to reduce the burden of reporting on all providers" and "focus on outcome-based measures."

    Verma said CMS under the initiative is "revising current quality measures across all programs to ensure that measure sets are streamlined, outcomes-based, and meaningful to doctors and patients." She added, "Regulations have their place … but, if rules are misguided, outdated, or are too complex, they can have a suffocating effect on health care delivery by shifting the focus of providers away from the patient and toward unnecessary paperwork, and ultimately increase the cost of care."

    According to a CMS release, the initiative "will involve only assessing those core issues that are most vital to providing high-quality care and improving patient outcomes."

    In addition, Verma said the initiative will focus on offering providers more flexibility when it comes to innovation, as well as minimizing the burden and costs providers will face when implementing MACRA.

    Verma said CMS has "taken a hard look at MACRA and will continue to do so," because the agency "know[s] MACRA is a tremendous change" and wants "to make the transition as smooth as possible." Verma said CMS wants to implement "a system that can work for all providers across the country—urban, rural, small, and large—so that the transition does not push providers out of the system and result in fewer patient choices."

    Industry welcomes initiative

    Mari Savickis, vice president of federal affairs at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, said, "A quick review of the administrator's comments are music to our ears."

    Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy for the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), said the initiative's "goals are laudable, but the talking points have been with us for several years now." He continued, "If CMS makes this more than a passing priority, and if there is a fundamental review of quality measures in an electronic environment, then AMIA gladly supports this initiative." But in order for CMS "to turn these talking points into reality," Smith said the agency "will need to put forth far more resources and commit additional experts to a complete overhaul of electronic quality measures for value-based payments."

    Anders Gilberg, senior vice president for government affairs at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), said the group supports reducing regulatory burdens on providers and ensuring measures are meaningful, noting that respondents to a recent MGMA survey cited a lack of clinical relevance among their top concerns for measures under MACRA's Merit-based Incentive Payment System.

    Gilberg added that MGMA hopes federal rules regarding MACRA's implementation "will be consistent" with the goals of CMS' new initiative (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 10/30; Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 10/30;  Landi, Healthcare Informatics, 10/30; MacDonald, FierceHealthcare, 10/30; Monica, EHRIntelligence, 10/30; CMS release, 10/30). 

    Get the cheat sheets: How hospital quality ratings programs work

    Download our one page sheets for summaries on the methodology and metric categories used in five hospital quality rating programs:

  • US News and World Report Best Hospital Rankings
  • CMS Star Ratings
  • Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Grade
  • Truven Analytics’ Top 15 Health Systems
  • Truven Analytics’ Top 100 Hospitals
  • Get all the Cheat Sheets

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