Health Affairs: U.S. Docs Spend $15.4B Annually to Report Quality Measures | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Health Affairs: U.S. Docs Spend $15.4B Annually to Report Quality Measures

March 8, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints
Nearly three-fourths of the physician groups reported being measured on quality measures that are not clinically relevant

A national survey of physician practices finds physicians and staff spend, on average, 785 physician and staff hours per physician annually—equaling $15.4 billion—to track and report quality measures for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurers, according to the March issue of Health Affairs.

Weill Cornell Medicine researchers analyzed results from a national survey of cardiology, orthopedics, primary care, and multispecialty practices, drawn at random from the Colorado-based Medical Group Management Association’s (MGMA) membership list. Surveyed practices reported spending 15.1 hours per physician per week dealing with external quality measures such as developing and implementing data collection processes, entering information relevant for quality reporting into patient medical records, and collecting and transmitting data.

The average cost to a practice for spending this time is $40,069 per physician per year. Eighty-one percent of surveyed practices reported that the effort they spend on quality measures is “more” or “much more” compared to three years ago, but only 27 percent believe that the measures moderately or strongly represent their quality of care, according to a Health Affairs blog post on the research, which was funded by The Physicians Foundation.

In response to the study, Halee Fischer-Wright, president and CEO of MGMA, said in an emailed statement that “While much is to be gained from quality measurement, the current system is unnecessarily costly, and greater effort is needed to standardize measures and make them easier to report.”

Fischer-Wright continued, "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. The vast majority also stated current measures are useless for improving patient care. This study proves that the current top-down approach has failed. It serves no purpose to have over three thousand competing measures of quality across government and private initiatives.”

It should be noted that last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), in collaboration, released seven sets of standardized clinical quality measures for physician quality programs. According to the CMS press release, at the time, partners in the Collaborative recognize that physicians and other clinicians must currently report multiple quality measures to different entities. Measure requirements are often not aligned among payers, which has resulted in confusion and complexity for reporting providers. Further, at last week’s HIMSS16 conference in Las Vegas, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt acknowledged that he himself has been on the road visiting doctors’ offices to get a feel for their frustrations when it comes to actions that take away from patient care.

Nonetheless, Fischer-Wright added in her statement, “Although standardization is critical, if measures don't improve patient care, it’s an exercise in futility. As the largest contributor to the problem, the federal government needs to get out of the business of dictating patient care through wasteful mandates and create simplified systems to support medical practices in improving quality across the country."

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



Study: EHRs Tied with Lower Hospital Mortality, But Only After Systems Have Matured

Over the past decade, there has been significant national investment in electronic health record (EHR) systems at U.S. hospitals, which was expected to result in improved quality and efficiency of care. However, evidence linking EHR adoption to better care is mixed, according to medical researchers.

Nursing Notes Can Help Predict ICU Survival, Study Finds

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have found that sentiments in healthcare providers’ nursing notes can be good indicators of whether intensive care unit (ICU) patients will survive.

Health Catalyst Completes Acquisition of HIE Technology Company Medicity

Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst, a data analytics company, has completed its acquisition of Medicity, a developer of health information exchange (HIE) technology, and the deal adds data exchange capabilities to Health Catalyst’s data, analytics and decision support solutions.

Advocate Aurora Health, Foxconn Plan Employee Wellness, “Smart City,” and Precision Medicine Collaboration

Wisconsin-based Advocate Aurora Health is partnering with Foxconn Health Technology Business Group, a Taiwanese company, to develop new technology-driven healthcare services and tools.

Healthcare Data Breach Costs Remain Highest at $408 Per Record

The cost of a data breach for healthcare organizations continues to rise, from $380 per record last year to $408 per record this year, as the healthcare industry also continues to incur the highest cost for data breaches compared to any other industry, according to a new study from IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute.

Morris Leaves ONC to Lead VA Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization

Genevieve Morris, who has been detailed to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from her position as the principal deputy national coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services, will move over full time to lead the newly establishment VA Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization.