Physician Quality Measure Law Must Be Fixed To Improve Patient Care

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Medical specialists expressed concerns about a 2006 law that rushes the process of reporting on quality measures and urged policymakers to allow time to complete a testing phase before expanding or making the Medicare program permanent.

Saying that evaluation of the measures is critical to the success of the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI), physicians from the Alliance of Specialty Medicine are on Capitol Hill this week advocating for the Voluntary Medicare Quality Reporting Act (H.R. 2749 and S. 1519), introduced by Reps. Gordon and Shadegg and Sens. Cardin and Specter, which addresses many of the physicians' concerns.

"A new Medicare program with new quality measures for physicians is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2008, at the same time Medicare physician payments are scheduled to be cut by 10 percent," said Gary M. Bloomgarden, MD, a neurosurgeon in New Haven, Conn., and chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons Council of State Neurosurgical Societies. "Physicians want to provide the very best quality care and participate in this process, but this new federal process will only work if physicians have time to prepare, and the measures are proven."

The poll was conducted from June 18 until July 6, 2007. Medical specialty groups participating in the poll include the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, American Urological Association and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Nearly 80 percent of those responding expressed concerns that the current system could harm patient care, and more than 90 percent said it was critical or important to determine the effectiveness of the quality measures before the system is in place and reporting is required. Other concerns include:

-- Increased focus on measures may harm quality of care in other areas (41.6 percent).

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-- Too much emphasis on reducing costs may reduce services for patients or harm quality of care (36.6 percent).

-- Reporting will increase the administrative burden on practices and the costs of care (36. 3 percent).

-- There is no clear process in place for developing the measures and for reporting (27.2 percent).

More than 60 percent reported they still did not understand the new federal pay-for-reporting process and how they should participate. Three-fourths (75.9) indicated they either are not ready or do not know if they can be ready to report on new quality measures in 2008.

The Voluntary Medicare Quality Reporting Act will ensure that:

-- Reporting will help assure quality care, by using evidence-based, physician-developed measures.

-- Physician specialists will help develop meaningful quality measures for their specialties.

-- Physicians have time to adopt new computer systems and office changes to make reporting efficient and accurate.

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