I had the privilege to attend the Microsoft Connected Health Conference in Bellevue, Washington on May 19-20. Microsoft changed the format of their education sessions this year to a panel discussion including short presentations. This new format included a moderator and several views of the topic from industry experts and key people from healthcare organizations. One of my favorite sessions was titled “Capturing Value Across the Continuum: Healthcare Quality and Outcomes.” If you have been following the Edgewater blogs on improving Core Measures then you understand my interest.
The real take-away on this topic was the understanding that the focus on quality in healthcare has been centered more on improving business processes than improving patient outcomes. The panel consisted of Kim Jackson, Director of Data Warehousing, St. Joseph Health System, Kevin Fahsholtz, Senior Director with Premier, Dr. Floyd Eisenberg, Senior Vice President for Health Information Technology at the National Quality Forum and Dr. Richard Chung of the Hawaii Medical Services Association. The panel represented a Hospital Provider (Kim), an Analytics and Benchmarking company (Kevin), a healthcare standards organization (Dr. Eisenberg) and a Payer organization (Dr. Chung),all of the key aspects of the Healthcare Quality continuum and was focused on the real world challenges of improving the quality of healthcare.
The key idea of improving patient outcomes dominated the hour long discussion. Kim White noted that “the burden (of collecting data) for a hospital is overwhelming, and measuring is overtaking the work.” Dr. Eisenberg agreed that there was a need to move the focus of the quality measures to outcomes and away from the small process details. He went on to say that the real issue is the definitions of the data and that the definitions need to be standardized. In his role, Dr. Eisenberg is working to create a standard data model for quality measures and key definitions to the standards for care. Dr. Chung pointed out that we need to change our “culture of care delivery” along with the awareness of the data. Dr. Chung believes that providing visibility of the quality data helps set up a culture of change. His experience shows that separating the data from the application software allows new understanding.
All of the panelists agreed that a key issue is developing the “single version of the truth” and eliminating conflicting information. Kim White presented that using Microsoft’s Amalga UIS product allowed St. Joseph Health System to unite their data, reorganize their data and prioritize it. She pointed out that consolidating data sources from eight locations created this “single version of the truth” and reduced the administrative burden for tracking core measures.
Our experience in improving core measures parallels this panel discussion. Success in improving healthcare quality and outcomes involves plain old hard work – collecting the right data, with the right definition, at the right time in the process and providing it to the right people. The need to extend the data collection to tracking outcomes beyond reporting requirements is the right idea at a right time in healthcare. Let’s not settle for the minimal reporting requirements, but truly track outcomes and develop the feedback loops necessary to keep them successful and improving. It is, after all, about the patient and not mere statistics.