National Quality Forum Endorses Physician Outpatient Care Standards
The National Quality Forum, a not-for-profit group formed to establish consensus on health care quality measures, on Thursday announced the endorsement of a series of voluntary standards to determine and publicly report the quality of outpatient care provided by physicians, CQ HealthBeat reports. The standards -- developed through a consensus of more than 260 health care providers, consumer groups, professional organizations, purchasers, federal agencies and research and quality improvement organizations -- include 36 performance measures and three recommendations.
The standards represent measures of structure, process and outcome that evidence has linked to quality of care for outpatient care, NQF said. In a press release, NQF officials said, "Despite being the center of health care, there have been to this point few agreed-upon quality measures specifically aimed at measuring the performance of outpatient care providers."
According to CQ HealthBeat, the standards "could serve as tools to be used in the 'pay-for-performance' movement on Capitol Hill," a proposal that some federal officials and policy experts have cited as a "way to improve medical care for Medicare beneficiaries and spend federal health care dollars efficiently" (CQ HealthBeat , 8/4).
In related news, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a not-for-profit group that accredits health care organizations, this week announced that 57 health plans have agreed to implement voluntary care management standards developed to encourage wellness and disease prevention, CQ HealthBeat reports. Over the next few months, NCQA will survey the health plans to assess their performance in prevention, disease management and complex case management. NCQA also will encourage health plans to become "early adopters" of the standards before they become mandatory.
NCQA President Margaret O'Kane expects most health plans to implement practices related to the standards within five years, CQ HealthBeat reports. Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, in a press release said that improved care management of chronic diseases "results in fewer sick days, fewer hospital stays, lower medical costs and ... improved productivity and quality of life" (CQ HealthBeat , 8/4).