Electronic Health Records


AHRQ looks to measure the quality of EHR and health IT

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) emphasize that the widespread adoption and use of electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), and other forms of health IT will ultimately to the delivery of “quality” care patients across the country. Through the promotion of the federal and state initiatives (e.g., EHR Incentive Programs, Beacon Community Program, State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program), these federal agencies provide guidelines for what constitutes the meaningful (i.e., most effective) use of health IT in the treatment of patients by providers.

Despite providing standards and definitions, participation in incentive programs is still low. Moreover, given the diversity of systems, the patient experience of EHR and health IT depends on judgment of his provider. And you can add to that the recent findings from the American Journal of Managed Care that show that although patients are eager to have access to their electronic records, few actually enjoy that benefit. How then is quality to be measured consistently?

This is the question the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is attempting to answer through its July 20 request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register, the deadline for which has today been extended to September 21:

AHRQ is committed to garnering further insight in order to facilitate meaningful advancements in the next generation of quality measurement. Through this Request for Information AHRQ is seeking information on the building blocks of health IT-enabled quality measurement in terms of perspectives, practicalities, and priorities. Responses will be used in conjunction with deliberative activities to inform the development of a summary report to be released to the public approximately in summer 2013.

A delay in establishing methods for collecting and distributing quality measures could lead to a missed opportunity considering the amount of financial and legislative support behind health IT use. “Quality measurement is a critical element of the strategy to improve the quality of care delivered in the U.S. health care system,” claimed the authors of a recent AHRQ publication, “This is a pivotal time to examine performance measurement enabled by health IT due to the convergence of increased health IT adoption and the implementation of new, patient-centered reimbursement and care delivery strategies.”

For insight into these strategies, AHRQ wants to hear what the market (i.e., the providers themselves) has to say. If you’d like to offer your two cents, the RFI provides 15 prompts, running the gamut from infrastructure to workflows. Responses can be submitted one of two ways: email or snail mail.

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