The Health & Human Services Department has released the National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care to promote quality health care focused on the needs of patients. At the same time, it wants to make the health care system work better for physicians and other healthcare providers, through such things as reducing their administrative burdens and helping them collaborate more to improve care.
The HHS strategy includes calls for the increased adoption of electronic health records (EHR), which are a foundation for many of the projects that will realize HHS goals.
The national quality strategy was required under the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, and is the first effort to create national aims and priorities to guide local, state, and national efforts to improve healthcare quality.
The U.S. healthcare system is fragmented and disorganized, the HHS strategy document said. According to Rand Corp. research quoted in the document, nearly one half of all adult patients fail to receive the recommended health care.
"The Affordable Care Act sets America on a path toward a higher quality health care system so we stop doing things that don't work for patients and start doing more of the things that do work," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an announcement March 21.
Among the HHS goals is to make health care safer. For example, an ongoing effort is a project funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in which a team at Johns Hopkins University has partnered with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association to establish recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce central line blood infections in 100 intensive care units throughout the state. Over 18 months, the program has saved more than 1,500 lives and nearly $200 million, according to HHS. This approach has now spread to all states.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has used its purchasing power to get virtually all hospitals to publicly report standardized information on the perspective of patients, including Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. This was the first large-scale initiative to include patient experience as a factor in quality reporting.
CMS also is promoting better care coordination through the participation of eight states in the Multi-Payer Advanced Primary Care Practice Demonstration to evaluate the effectiveness of clinicians across care systems working in a more integrated fashion and receiving more coordinated payment from Medicare, Medicaid and private health plans.
EHRs have the potential to cut healthcare costs, reduce paperwork, improve outcomes, and give patients more control over their health care, while maintaining privacy protections of individual health information, HHS said.
The HITECH Act provides substantial financial incentives for the adoption and meaningful use of certified EHR technology. Meaningful use criteria include quality measurements that will be built on over the next several years. The goal is to build a system that supports clinical practice, research, public health, and the health of individual patients.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has engaged the private sector to promote the development of health information exchange and is assisting providers with adopting EHRs and becoming meaningful users, in order to be eligible for incentive payments.