How much is quality measure reporting costing you?

The amount of quality measures on which physicians must report is steadily increasing. Each year there are seemingly new aspects of administering healthcare that physicians have to report on for Medicaid, Medicare, and private payer patients. A lot of this is onerous work that requires extra effort and time put in by physicians and their staffs to record these quality measures. But how much time is actually being spent on them? And how does that time translate into money spent on tracking and reporting quality measures? Now, thanks to a new study published in Health Affairs, we have quantifiable data about what this is costing physicians.

As reported by Clinical Innovation + Technology, practices spend 785 hours per physician and a total of $15.4 billion on quality measures annually. To break that down even further,

Practices reported spending 15.1 hours per week per physician on 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.
That's in addition to all of the other reporting that physicians have to normally do, plus seeing patients, following up with them, and everything else in a physician's workflow. Not to mention the amount of work that is being shifted onto their supporting staff.

According to the article, many of the physicians in the survey felt that the quality measures weren't "clinically relevant" and did nothing to further or improve patient care. Such reform on what is being tracked would have to occur on organizational and federal levels. However, how they are being entered and tracked is also of vital importance, especially if it's costing this much to record these quality measures.

For example, there's a lot of redundant data entry across multiple forms for physicians. Information entered into the History & Physical also has to be entered into the EHR, and some of those questions will come up again when doing reporting on cases or procedures. And still they'll come up again when having to record and report on the quality measures. There has to be a better way to minimize input efforts and maximize the output of the information. For example, at mTuitive, we've realized that if proper emphasis and care is paid to the initial input of information, then that data can be used selectively in a multitude of output formats. Structured data enables users to enter the information once, and then have it populate reports to referring physicians, EHRs, disease registries, and quality measure initiatives without requiring the physicians to enter any more information or create new reports. That automatic dispersal of data unlocks the power of synoptic reporting and reduces the time and money spent by physicians on keeping up with various initiatives and forms. Enter the data in once, and use it however you like downstream. It's a principle that more health IT organizations need to adopt in order to save time, money, and efforts by physicians who are already overtaxed with their responsibilities.

Those interested should read the article for more information about how physicians feel about the quality measures and the actual per hour monetary cost that is required to fulfill these quality measures. Moving forward, it's important for health IT to reduce this strain on the workflow; even if the physicians feel the measures aren't "clinically important," they are still mandated to record them. Therefore it's incumbent on health IT solutions to make the data input as easy as possible, and the data itself readily available to be transmitted to multiple sources as needed. With the amount of time and money that physicians are spending on providing care to their patients, it's important that the electronic solutions do not complicate the workflow but instead streamline it and reduce the need for repetitive input and processes.