Too much reporting: When quality measures don't mean quality care

Aug 18, 2018

An opinion piece published in STAT, a health-centered media group, detailed the paradoxical struggle of physicians spending too much time reporting quality data to actually deliver quality medical care to their patients.

Dr. Jerry Penso, president and chief executive officer at AMGA (formerly the American Medical Group Association), wrote that though there are well-meaning intentions behind mandatory quality reporting, the ultimate result is detrimental both to physicians and their patients. We spoke to him this month for "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show.

“Most medical professionals accept that rigorous quality measurement is essential to improving care and fundamental to transitioning the way we pay for health care,” Penso said in his piece. “[But] in the short run, the demand for quality reporting is outrunning our capability to produce it.”

Reporting is being done at all sort of levels throughout the healthcare system, Penso said, dealing with things like quality, cost, access to care and patient experience. The main motivations behind these requirements -- accountability, improved care and comparison shopping -- are admirable, but these goals have become difficult to achieve due to the recent stark increase in data physicians are required to report, according to Penso.

“The challenge has become that these measures have grown in number dramatically in the last decade,” Penso said. “Now, some of our medical groups and health systems are reporting hundreds of measures, and because of that, that takes away from a physician’s and the medical group’s ability to provide the care that we all want.”

Penso said he and other physicians often feel like data clerks, spending more time reporting quality care than delivering it to patients. As such, he said fewer reports with more concentrated efforts would be easier on physicians and ultimately beneficial for patients.

“We want measures that are relevant, that are risk-adjusted, that are based on good science and, most important, based on those outcomes that matter to the patients,” Penso said.

Embracing new technologies can play a large part in improving the reporting process, Penso said, including electronic health records and prescriptions.  

“The era of electronic health records has a lot of advantages, mainly around coordination of your care so that all the doctors who are taking care of you have a record of your history [and] your medications,” Penso said.

In addition, sufficient data can help patients make an informed decision on where to go for their medical treatment.

“Patients are becoming more like consumers,” Penso said. “By looking at these sort of ratings…they’re going to be able to compare hospitals…in order to determine, maybe, where is the best place for them to receive care.”