This week, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released the second in a series of AcademyHealth issue briefs that aim to highlight and disseminate key themes, strategies, and lessons learned by grantees of the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program. Titled “Building a Foundation of Electronic Data to Measure and Drive Improvement,” this brief focuses on the role of quality measurement in achieving the triple aim of improved care quality, costs, and population health, and Beacon Community progress in demonstrating the potential of health information technology (health IT) to transform this process. As national, State, and community-level quality improvement (QI) initiatives proliferate across the country, the ability to systematically and accurately measure relevant aspects of health and health care is increasingly essential to identify areas for improvement and quantify changes over time. The issue brief describes how the growth and adoption of health IT has driven the ongoing transition from manual paper- and claims-based quality measurement strategies to (increasingly) automated generation of measures from electronic clinical data. Recent policy initiatives have played a significant role in this transition. The Beacon Communities’ experiences demonstrate the potential of health IT not only to improve care quality, but also to capture electronic data at the point of care, which can be used to calculate accurate and timely measures of care processes and health outcomes. These measures, in turn, can be used to assess the impact of various interventions and inform the decision-making of stakeholders including providers, patients, payers, policymakers, and accreditors. The brief goes on to detail foundational elements for health IT-enabled quality measurement and improvement, including:

  • Ensuring data validity
  • Developing a framework for community-wide measurement
  • Relevance and usability of measure results
  • Aligning incentives and increasing buy-in
Examples from the Beacon Communities describe strategies, tools, processes, and policies they have implemented to support each of these elements. They also underscore remaining technical, policy, and cultural barriers that need to be overcome to achieve the ideal of seamless, automated, standardized data capture to calculate electronic clinical quality measures. Other communities engaging in QI efforts may learn from and build upon these lessons learned as they continue striving for the triple aim. Read the full issue brief. For more information on AcademyHealth’s role in supporting the Beacon Program, click here.   This post was written by Research Assistant Abby Schachter.