Growing burden of quality measures is weighing on providers

Jeff Rowe
Growing burden of quality measures is weighing on providers

As part of healthcare reform initiatives, providers are being required to spend significant time and resources reporting quality measures to both federal agencies and private payers, and the cost of that effort is adding up.

According to a new report in Health Affairs, practices are spending an average of 785 hours per physician and $15.4 billion annually reporting quality measures. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College “looked at the quality reporting efforts of primary care, cardiology, orthopedic and multi-specialty practices, polling 1000 of them (250 of each type), drawn at random from the membership rolls of the Medical Group Management Association.”

While "much is to be gained from quality measurement,” the researchers noted, “the current system is unnecessarily costly, and greater effort is needed to standardize measures and make them easier to report.”

Practices reported spending 15.1 hours per week per physician wrangling quality measures -- 2.6 hours each week for physicians, with the rest of the work going to nurses or medical assistants. About 12 of those hours were spent logging data into medical records solely for quality reporting.

In a statement responding to the report, Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MGMA’s president and CEO, observed, “On top of the obscene waste of billions of dollars each year on quality measures, the most alarming thing about this study of MGMA member practices is that nearly three-fourths of the groups reported being measured on quality measures that are not clinically relevant.”

Indeed, according to the report, roughly 80 percent of practices said they spend more time managing quality measures than three years ago. Almost half said that's become a significant burden. But just 27 percent thought those measures necessarily correlated with quality care.

Beyond the time invested, the dollars add up too. Weill Cornell researchers found that practices spent $40,069 per physician each year on quality reporting – totaling $15.4 billion annually.