The National Quality Forum (NQF) continues to focus on an extremely wide range of health care areas as it strives to develop better measures for health care performance. In its annual report to HHS and Congress, the NQF highlighted various projects that will allow it to better understand certain areas of care, from rural health to palliative care. New areas of focus, such as health information technology (HIT) are added to the NQF’s slate as they become increasingly relevant to the health care community (Notice, 81 FR 60995, September 2, 2016).
NQF’s responsibilities. The NQF is the entity HHS chose to facilitate industry input on setting priorities for measuring health care performance and maintaining these measures. The NQF’s efforts are intended to further HHS’ goal of tying an increasing number of Medicare fee-for-services (FFS) payments to quality or value, which is borne out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) aim to improve health care quality and efficiency. The NQF must report to HHS and Congress on an annual basis, providing information on: (1) its implementation of quality and efficiency measurement initiatives; (2) recommendation for integrated national strategies; (3) its performance of contractual duties; (4) gaps in quality and efficiency measurements; (5) areas where more information is necessary in order to support an endorsement of measures; and (6) convening stakeholder groups to provide input on quality measures and priority areas of improvement.
Priorities. In 2015, the NQF focused its efforts on several different areas of measures that are of particular relevance. One important consideration involves how HIT can affect performance measures. Although HIT can improve patient care, it also presents hazards and challenges that could alter performance measures. The NQF will continue to study areas in which patients may be harmed by HIT misuse.
One common area of interest among payers is the patient risk pool, and the NQF worked to understand how measures can be adjusted based on socioeconomic risk in order to better measure quality of care. Other areas of focus include rural health and home- and community-based care.
Improving population health is a main goal of the National Quality Strategy (NQS), which was developed as a roadmap for achieving better health outcomes, better care, and reduced spending. The NQF furthered the population health priority by field testing several diverse communities across the country to obtain additional data in order to further the development of community action recommendations.
Projects. The NQF is pursuing various other projects, such as creating proper cardiovascular measures and improving care coordination measures to encourage providers to improve patient experiences. This can also be achieved through better person- and family-centered care measures, as this approach allows patients and family members to have more input in their care plans. The NQF also focused on creating surgery measures after considering the increasing rate of surgical procedures.
The NQF strove to understand how measures may be altered in the field, varying measure specifications. It also reviewed concerns about tying patient outcomes to clinician payments when a patient’s care comes from many providers. Further areas of study will consider physician questions about the implementation of measures and ensuring accurate results.
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