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Cancer Care and Other Quality Recommendations Submitted to HHS

June 4, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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Measure Applications Partnership, a public-private partnership convened by the National Quality Forum (NQF), which looks at potential use of federal reporting and performance-based programs, has issued two new reports that present quality measurement strategies for a group of hospitals that specialize in cancer care and for hospice and palliative care providers. The new reports came at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

There is a quality measurement program in the case of hospice and palliative care from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which created the Medicare Hospice Quality Measurement Program. This requires hospice programs to publicly report quality data beginning in 2014 or incur a financial penalty.

The law also stipulated that 11 hospitals that specialize in cancer care, called PPS-Exempt Cancer Hospitals, must begin to publicly report quality data in 2014, although with no financial penalty or incentive attached to the reporting activity. These specialty cancer hospitals have been exempt from the Medicare Prospective Payment System (PPS) because their narrow focus on cancer care does not lend itself to the payment program as designed.

“These measurement strategies are geared toward improving the care of patients grappling with serious and complex healthcare issues,” Elizabeth McGlynn, PhD, co-chair of the MAP Coordinating Committee, said in a statement. “The new public reporting programs, and MAP’s reports, are part of a broader effort to ensure that measurement-driven quality improvement and accountability are being applied across the spectrum of the healthcare system.” 

The two reports are the latest in a series of several quality measurement coordination strategies authored by MAP. Both new reports, according to the NQF, emphasize the importance of measuring components of care that patients and their families find meaningful. This includes surveying patients about their experiences of care, assessing quality of life, evaluating pain and symptom management, and tracking whether each patient has a care plan that signals their preferences, is kept updated, and is being honored.

According to the NQF, the reports also stress the importance of measuring how well patients transition from one care setting or type of provider to another—for example, from a hospital to a nursing home or care provided in their own homes. These transitions can sometimes show how fragmented the healthcare system is, according to NQF. MAP emphasizes that performance measures should evaluate patients’ full experiences as they move through the healthcare system.

For cancer care, MAP stresses the importance of survival data to patients’ decision-making on both treatments and providers. The group says survival data presented to patients and families include information on the specific type and stage of cancer.  “Clear and comparable information on survival rates can be critical to cancer patients and their families making very tough choices at an emotional time,” Frank Opelka, MD, chair of the MAP Hospital Workgroup, said in a statement.

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