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Engaging Consumers Through Outcomes Data Transparency

August 11, 2011
by PAlpesh
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An initiative in Oregon suggests how other states might move forward on quality as well

Can a statewide effort to encourage consumers to become more deeply engaged in their own healthcare be successful? The results of an initiative aimed both at engaging consumers and at providing consumers with a more transparent system of reporting the clinical outcomes from providers are making themselves apparent in Oregon, where the answer to that question clearly seems to be, yes.

And in that state, the work of this initiative is being led by a nonprofit, statewide organization. Founded in 2000, the Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality and affordability of healthcare in Oregon by leading community collaborations and producing unbiased information.

In the year 2000, members of Oregon Coalition of Health Care Purchasers came together to think of ways to help improve the quality of healthcare and reduce its cost at the same time. This group brought together multiple healthcare stakeholders representing employers, consumers, health plans, physicians, and hospitals. Their initial efforts were to establish the area of measuring and reporting care. This is how Oregon Health Care Quality Corporation got created as a separate, non-profit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization under the IRS code. Q Corp’s mission is to improve the quality of healthcare in Oregon through community-wide collaboration.

Q-Corp takes data from administrative claims of 10 of Oregon’s largest health plans and Medicaid, representing more than 1.85 million members. This data is aggregated based on nationally endorsed measures in areas like diabetes, asthma, women’s preventive care, heart disease apart from utilization and pediatric measures. One of the distribution channels for quality measurement results of this data is directed towards consumers. This channel is called Partners for Quality Care.

Partners for Quality Care engages consumers in thinking about their own healthcare. It encourages consumers to think about being a partner with their providers. It enables consumers to not lay all the responsibilities on providers, but instead to take some of the responsibilities themselves. To aid consumers in this regard, the Partner for Quality Care site provides tips for consumers in terms of getting the most from their medical appointments, tips on getting the most appropriate and quality care in hospitals, tips on staying healthy, etc. The site also provides quality scores for clinics and hospitals. The quality scores are represented by easy-to-understand visual icons representing Better, Average, Below Average, etc. thereby allowing end-user consumers to do their own comparisons based on specific medical conditions or quality measures.

It should be noted that much of this consumer work started with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as part of its Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) initiative. This initiative is the Foundation’s core strategy in its commitment to improve the quality of the healthcare that Americans receive and is being implemented in 17 communities so far. Oregon is one of only three communities that have statewide representation.

The need of the hour is for other states to take notice and learn from the experiences of organizations like Quality Corporation of Oregon. The need of the hour is also for more and more Oregonians to take note of the Partner for Quality Care resource and to use it while making crucial decisions regarding their healthcare.