CMS Urged to Base 2008 PQRI On Outcomes, Not Claims Data


BALTIMORE — Outcomes registries, not claims data, should be the basis for the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative next year, physicians and their representatives said at a forum held in May by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CMS officials said they are gathering comments on how to evolve from claims-based information to a registry model, in an effort to prevent duplicative efforts to collect data and to encourage quality improvement. The agency's final recommendations were to be published in the Federal Register in mid-August as a proposed set of 2008 reportable measures, agency officials said.

PQRI is a hot topic among physicians. According to a Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, more than 600 people attended the forum via conference call. The initiative was mandated as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. Beginning in July, physicians could take part in the initiative by reporting on specialty-specific measures. This year, CMS has listed 74 measures (posted at

To participate, physicians submit data on those measures through December on at least 80% of their cases. Those who participate will get a bonus lump-sum payout of 1.5% of claims submitted, some time in mid-2008. Many physicians already report on such measures to specialty societies.

The longest-running registry is maintained by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The 17-year-old registry contains more than 3 million records, Dr. Jeffrey Rich of the STS said at the forum. The STS supports the PQRI effort, but “we feel that it must go farther, and we feel that can be accomplished through the use of registries.”

This year, PQRI is structured to collect data on processes, not outcomes, he said. Registries allow for the collection of clinical data on patient outcomes, which is more useful for quality improvement, Dr. Rich said. STS suggested that outcomes measures should be vetted through groups such as the American Medical Association's Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement and the AQA (formerly the Ambulatory Care Quality Alliance). Measures that cut across disciplines should be harmonized, preferably by the National Quality Forum, he said. And input standards should be established to ensure that the data cover all patients, not just a random sample, Dr. Rich said. Finally, registries should be subject to validation and an audit mechanism.

CMS officials also heard about registries developed by the American Osteopathic Association, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, users of GE Healthcare's electronic medical records, the American Medical Group Management Association, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

In 2006, the American Board of Internal Medicine began requiring internists to begin using Practice Improvement Modules (PIMs) in order to maintain certification. With PIMs, physicians enter medical data about patients, and then receive reports back from ABIM, which they are supposed to analyze and use to develop a self-improvement plan.

More than 5,000 physicians completed a PIM in 2006, and 5,000 more are currently working on PIMs, Dr. Cary Sennett, ABIM senior vice president of strategy and clinical analytics, said at the forum.

Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Humana, and several regional Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans have recognized PIMs as fulfilling quality improvement criteria, said Dr. Sennett, who added that ABIM supported the PQRI effort.

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