The number of hospitals voluntarily submitting data on quality generated by electronic health records (EHRs) increased significantly over the past year, according to the Joint Commission, a leading health care facility accreditation organization.
However, these data are not publicly available by facility, according to the Joint Commission. This is unfortunate because the information offers another window into hospital quality. AHCJ has long advocated for the public release of the Joint Commission’s hospital accreditation surveys and complaint reports.
These data generated by EHRs are called electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs). They are electronically gathered and transmitted to the federal government and to accreditation organizations and can help shed light on in-patient care quality at hospitals.
A total of 470 hospitals nationwide submitted eCQM data to the Joint Commission in 2016, a huge jump from the 34 hospitals that submitted this data in 2015, according to the Joint Commission’s annual report released in November. Submission of eCQM data was voluntary.
An estimated 2,000 hospitals are expected to submit eCQM data to the Joint Commission in 2017, according to the Chicago-based organization.
Hospitals also submit eCQM data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The agency has a resource page on the topic.
For Joint Commission eCQM reporting in 2016, hospitals could select and report performance on up to 23 eCQMs in eight measure sets. These included heart attack, stroke, perinatal and venous thromboembolism (VTE) care. The most frequently reported eCQM data was for emergency department care. Many of the eCQMs aligned with CMS performance measures.
The Joint Commission noted that performance rates on eCQMs tended to be lower than clinical measures calculated through chart review. A few reasons for this were cited: different measure specifications between the two reporting systems; data sources for eCQMs might be more limited because they are based on structured information coded into the EHR; and updates for eCQMs might not be aligned with reporting based on chart abstractions.
However, based on surveys of hospitals, the Joint Commission said there is increasing confidence among facilities in reporting accurate eCQM data.
One hospital responded to the survey that using electronic methods to measure quality was preferable because it frees up clinicians and quality managers to focus on improvement rather than data collection and validation, according to the Joint Commission. For more on eCQMs, go to the Joint Commission’s annual report and scroll down to the lower right section “eCQM Data Summary.”
With the caveat that extracting quality data from EHRs remains imperfect, greater reporting by hospitals of eCQM data is a good thing for journalists. We can always use more data sources to gauge hospital care quality. But making them available by facility and/or health system would increase their value to news organizations – and to the public.
- Joint Commission annual report, including eCQM data
- Electronic clinical quality improvement resource page, CMS
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