Will fewer healthcare metrics lead to fewer provider headaches?

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 - Michael Walter
Michael Walter, Associate Editor

Health systems have been asked to keep track of thousands of different healthcare metrics over the years. It can be difficult, time-consuming work, and it’s certainly not cheap. But according to a research article in the Journal of the American College of Radiology by Michael J. Pentecost, MD, of Magellan Health, some work has been done to relieve this pressure.

For example, a 2015 committee report from the Institute of Medicine recommended focusing on just 15 straightforward metrics. And in February 2016, Pentecost explained, CMS and commercial health plans agreed to drop from some 1,700 metrics to 7 “foundational metrics.”

This growing trend toward fewer and fewer metrics seems to come at the perfect time for radiologists. Electronic health records are evolving rapidly, and advanced imaging solutions are giving facilities freedom to extract whatever information they may need, but the impact of these advances suffers when providers are forced to understand dozens of metrics that assess just one condition. If radiologists can focus less on memorizing long lists of metrics and more on providing the very best patient care possible, it’s a big victory for everyone.

Of course, opinions vary on this point. Fewer metrics might be a miracle to some healthcare workers and a nightmare to others.

As Pentecost wrote in his analysis: “One person’s autonomy, subjectivity, and customization are another’s fragmentation, nonintegration, and unwarranted variation.”

But whether you want there to be thousands of performance metrics or as few as possible, CMS and the Institute of Medicine have both signaled the direction things are headed. Will this help restore providers’ sanity? Will there be unexpected negative consequences down the road? Only time will tell.

And you never know—in a few years, perhaps the industry will come together and decide a change of course is required once again.