By Christopher Cheney
Despite leading the world in healthcare spending at more than $3.5 trillion of expenditures annually, the United States lags other high-income countries in many health outcomes such as maternal mortality. The National Quality Task Force was formed to address continuing challenges and emerging issues in the pursuit of improving health outcomes and reducing medical errors.
The task force’s five recommendations are as follows.
1. Appropriate, safe, and accessible care
Healthcare leaders need to focus on building a culture and workforce that is committed to delivering a safe, appropriate, and efficient patient-centered experience as a standard of care.
“The cultural transformation must motivate the whole healthcare system to innovate continually and improve reliability of care processes—using proven virtual care capabilities to remove place-of-service barriers and advanced analytics to address misuse, overuse, and underuse,” the task force report says.
2. Seamless flow of reliable data
The proliferation of healthcare data is becoming overwhelming. This development is creating opportunities to improve care but also presents challenges to achieving effective, safe, and appropriate use of personal and clinical data.
“Consistent, comprehensive, high-value care requires providers, payers, and other system stakeholders to have real-time access to standardized, valid information from a variety of clinical and nonclinical data sources while safeguarding people from harm and bias. The seamless flow of reliable information is necessary to optimize the healthcare experience, efficiently improve health outcomes for individuals, reduce burden, and enable true, comparative benchmarks,” the task force report says.
3. Financing patient-centered care and healthy communities
The shift from fee-for-service healthcare to value-based care is moving too slowly. Health systems, hospitals, and physician practices need to focus on creating a healthcare delivery system that accounts for the whole person, puts a premium on keeping people healthy, and reduces health disparities.
“Investing more in primary care and prevention and accelerating the transition to population health models can promote more efficient use of public and private resources, and liberate systems to implement person-centered strategies that integrate community resources and care across modalities and settings to deliver care. Such care will produce better care experiences and outcomes that deserve payment and improve health equity across diverse communities,” the task force report says.
4. Engaged patients
The key stakeholders in healthcare—patients and caregivers—need actionable information to become more effective care partners.
“The healthcare delivery system must redefine quality and value from the perspective of educating an engaged consumer. To help consumers make informed healthcare decisions, care options must consider evidence as well as individual goals and needs. Evidence-driven information and consumer priorities must define what quality is and how it is measured and reported,” the task force report says.
The healthcare sector needs to match the achievements of high-performing industries that are committed to improving quality performance and expectations.
“Progress demands the transparency that provides actionable intelligence and valid value comparisons. Healthcare must establish transparent, consistent, and verifiable safety and quality standards that motivate all stakeholders to pursue the best value by providing effective, transparent comparisons of consumer experience ratings, clinical outcomes, and total cost as essential to achieving this goal,” the task force report says.
Views of task force leaders
In comments to HealthLeaders, the co-chairs of the task force gave their perspectives on the recommendations.
“The powerful role that culture has on performance and outcomes is well established. To consistently deliver high-value care, we must ensure there is a unifying culture of safe, appropriate, person-centered care,” said Kenneth Kizer, MD, MPH, chief healthcare transformation officer and senior executive vice president at the Washington, DC-based consultancy Atlas Research.
Data and accurate information are crucial for driving change in the healthcare sector, said Shantanu Agrawal, MD, MPhil, National Quality Forum president and CEO.
“There is fundamental need across the [healthcare] ecosystem for creating seamless, standards-driven, reliable data and information sharing processes. It will aid in accelerating technology-enabled processes to improve data sharing, utilization, and communication among stakeholders; help strengthen requirements to capture and publicly report measures that address consumer priorities; and standardize quality data to move beyond claims data,” Agrawal said.
Improving the flow of information has key benefits for healthcare providers, Kizer said. “Standardizing quality data and better aligning performance assessment across the quality enterprise should significantly lessen some of the ‘performance measure fatigue’ that currently exists and in so doing would help address physician burnout.”
Care options must consider evidence as well as individual goals and need to help consumers make informed healthcare decisions, Agrawal said. “There is a need to strengthen approaches to developing consumer-defined measures, increase transparency and usage of information desired by consumers, and integrate evidence-based shared decision making into prioritized care processes.”
The National Quality Task Force recognizes that progress demands transparency that provides actionable intelligence and valid value comparisons, Agrawal said. “We need to establish transparent, consistent, and verifiable safety and quality standards that motivate all stakeholders to pursue the best value by providing effective, transparent comparisons of consumer experience ratings, clinical outcomes, and total cost as essential to achieving this goal.”
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.