Reporting health care performance: learning from the past, prospects for the future

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  • Introduction

    In most health systems, information on the quality of care provided by clinicians, hospitals and otherhealth care organizations has traditionally been col-lected for internal quality assurance and has almostalways remained confidential (Schneider & Epstein

    1998). However, recent years have witnessed anincreasing volume of data on clinical performancebeing collated externally and being released into thepublic domain. In the USA, where public reportingis most advanced, comparative performance infor-mation, in the form of report cards, provider pro-files and consumer reports, has been released for

    Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 8, 2, 215228

    2002 Blackwell Science 215

    CorrespondenceDr Russell MannionCentre for Health EconomicsUniversity of YorkHeslingtonYork YO1 5DDUKE-mail: rm15@york.ac.uk

    Keywords: clinical indicators,international lessons, publicdissemination, report cards, US experience

    Accepted for publication:23 November 2001

    AbstractIn the USA, where public reporting of data on clinical performance is mostadvanced, comparative performance information, in the form of reportcards, provider profiles and physician profiling, has been published forover a decade. Many other countries are now following a similar route andare seeking to develop comparative data on health care performance.Notwithstanding the idiosyncratic nature of US health care, and the impli-cations this has for the generalizability of findings from the USA to othercountries, it is pertinent to ask what other countries can learn from the USexperience. Based on a series of structured interviews with leading expertson the US health system, this article draws out the key lessons for othercountries as they develop similar policies in this area. This paper highlightsthree concerns that have dominated the development of adequate measuresin the USA, and that require consideration when developing similarschemes elsewhere. Firstly, the need to develop indicators with sound metricproperties high in validity and meaningfulness, and appropriately risk-adjusted. Secondly, the need to involve all stakeholders in the design ofindicators, and a requirement that those measures be adapted to differentaudiences. Thirdly, a need to understand the needs of end users and toengage with them in partnerships to increase the attention paid to mea-surement. This study concludes that the greatest challenge is posed by thedesire to make comparative performance data more influential in leverag-ing performance improvement. Simply collecting, processing, analysing anddisseminating comparative data is an enormous logistical and resource-intensive task, yet it is insufficient. Any national strategy emphasizing comparative data must grapple with how to engage the serious attention ofthose individuals and organizations to whom change is to be delivered.

    Reporting health care performance: learning from the past, prospectsfor the futureRussell Mannion PhD1 and Huw T. O. Davies PhD, HonMFPHM2 1Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, York, UK2Professor of Health Care Policy and Management, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK

  • R. Mannion and H.T.O. Davies

    over a decade (Epstein 1998; Davies & Marshall1999). In Europe, Scotland has been at the forefrontof releasing clinical outcome indicators and has dis-seminated such information since 1994 (Mannion &Goddard 2000). More recently, clinical performancedata have been published for hospitals in Englandand Wales as part of the National Health Service(NHS) Performance Assessment Framework. Underthe recently launched NHS Plan, the Commission forHealth Improvement will be given responsibility forpublishing report cards on the performance of NHSorganizations (Department of Health 2000). Similarperformance-reporting systems are also being imple-mented in a number of countries, including Canada,New Zealand, Australia and Italy, and in Scandinavia(Peursem & Pratt 2000; Mariotto & Chitarin 1998;Anderson & Noyce 1992; Blais et al. 1999).

    The report card movement in the USA is now overa decade old and has grown into a multi-million-dollar industry. Notwithstanding the idiosyncraticnature of US health care, and the implications thishas for the generalizability of findings from the USAto other countries (Davies & Marshall 2000), it is pertinent to ask: what can we learn from this accu-mulated US experience? The development of effec-tive external reporting systems for health care hasbecome a key policy issue in most developed nations;hence, such an analysis has the potential to influencemany national debates. The complexity of the task,potential high costs and considerable concerns overboth ineffective systems (Davies 1998) and dysfunc-tional ones (Smith 1995a, 1995b; Goddard, Mannion& Smith 2000) make it imperative that we attempt to synthesize evidence and learning from as manysources as possible.

    Many commentaries and some reports of empiricalwork on the role of report card data have appearedover the years. Arguments about improving clinicalperformance have focused on the relative merits of published data (Anonymous 1993; Marshall et al.2000a, 2000b, 2000c), the role of patients (Lansky1996; Hibbard & Jewett 1997; Hibbard et al. 1997,1998; Lansky 1998), use of clinical indicators inquality initiatives (Thomson, McElroy & Kazandjian1997), the technical shortcomings of health outcomes(Davies & Crombie 1997), their lack of effect (Davies1998) or simple misguidedness (Davies & Lampel1998). Careful review work of empirical studies on

    the effects of report cards by Marshall and colleagues(Marshall et al. 2000c) have highlighted a number ofcrucial features:

    despite calls for further relevant information,patients (and their representatives) do not appearto use report card data when making health carechoices;

    health care purchasers and referring doctors alsoseem to be little influenced by these data, and

    there is some limited evidence that health careproviders may utilize such data in internal qualityimprovement activities (Marshall et al. 2000c).

    Thus, while reviews of empirical studies haveadvanced our understanding about the impact ofreport cards to some extent, it is our contention thatmuch of the accumulated wisdom of the US experi-ence remains locked up as tacit knowledge in keystakeholders. This work attempts to address this,accessing such knowledge by conducting a series ofin-depth structured interviews with leading expertson the US health system. Our stance is to unlock acritical review of previous US experience (with anemphasis on avoidable problems), and to encouragespeculation as to fruitful future pathways. Our aim is to draw out from the US experience of report cardsthe general lessons that might be used to inform the development of similar reporting initiatives elsewhere.

    After explanation of the interviewing strategy,the rest of the paper is devoted to the exploration ofa number of key themes that emerged during the in-depth interviews:

    the role of performance information in the turbulent US health system;

    the major achievements of the report card move-ment in the USA;

    the major problems and challenges that still needto be overcome in relation to monitoring the performance of US health plans and health careproviders;

    the incentive context for performance measures,and the mechanisms by which report cards aremeant to leverage change;

    the debates over the use of outcomes data vis--vis process data;

    the unintended and dysfunctional consequencesarising from the publication of performance data,and

    216 2002 Blackwell Science, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 8, 2, 215228

  • the relative balance between trusting cliniciansprofessionalism and checking up on clinical performance with quantitative report cards.

    The final section draws on these discussions tocollate some lessons for other countries who areembarking on national strategies of quality mea-surement in health care.

    Interviewing strategy

    This article is based mainly on information derivedfrom structured interviews with 18 experts on the UShealth system. This information is then placed in thecontext of an extensive literature. Our intervieweeswere selected using a purposeful sampling frame(Miles & Huberman 1994) to represent a range ofconstituencies and perspectives on performancemeasurement. They comprised leading academics

    with an active research interest in this topic, seniorstaff of federal government departments with re-sponsibilities for performance measurement andsenior staff from consumer groups and public- andprivate-sector quality oversight organizations (seeTable 1). The content of the interviews was stand-ardized using a common schedule. On average,interviews lasted 60 minutes, and they were tape-recorded and transcribed prior to analysis. A the-matic analysis of the transcripts was conducted(Denzin & Lincoln 1994).This analysis identified pas-sages of text relating to specific themes and issues,which were then grouped into conceptual categories.To strengthen the validity of the analysis and con-clusions (Kirk & Miller 1992), all interviewees wereinvited to comment on a preliminary draft of thisarticle and the views solicited have been used in thefinal draft.

    Reporting health care performance

    2002 Blackwell Science, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 8, 2, 215228 217

    Table 1 US interviewees

    Interviewee Post and organization

    Robert H. Brook Vice-President and Director of RAND Health, RAND, Santa Monica, CADonald M. Berwick President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Health Care Improvement and Clinical Professor

    of Pediatrics and Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical SchoolDavid Blumenthal Director of the Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MAMark R. Chassin Professor and Chairman, Department of Health Policy, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

    CityPaul D. Cleary Professor of Health Care Policy, Department of Health Care Policy and Social Medicine, Harvard

    Medical SchoolShan Cretin RAND, Santa Monica, CAMolla Donaldson Project Director, National Roundtable on Health Care Quality, Institute of Medicine, Washington, DCDavid Eddy Senior Advisor for Health and Social Policy, Kaiser Permanente, Southern CaliforniaEmmett Keeler RAND, Santa Monica, CAMarge Keyes Project Officer, Centre for Quality Measurement and Improvement, Agency for Health Care Policy

    and Research, Rockville, MDDavid J. Lansky President of the Foundation for Accountability (FACCT)Jerod Loeb Vice-President of Research and Evaluation, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care

    OrganizationsHarold Luft Director, Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, CAElizabeth A. McGlynn Director of the Center for Research on Quality in Health Care, RAND, Santa Monica, CAPatricia McTaggart Director of Quality and Performance Management, Center for Medical and State Operation, Health

    Care Financing Administration, Washington, DCSandra K. Robinson Consumer Research Co-ordinator, Centre for Quality Measurement and Improvement, Agency for

    Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MDJoshua Seidman Director, Measure Development, National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, DCStephen Shortell Blue Cross of California, Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management, University of

    California, School of Public Health, Berkeley, CA

  • R. Mannion and H.T.O. Davies

    Health care performance information in the USA

    Health care in the USA has undergone seismic shiftsover the past two decades. Of overriding importancehas been the swing away from indemnity healthinsurance tied to fee-for-service reimbursement, witha concomitant rise (and in many areas, a predomi-nance) of managed care arrangements. The keydriver over this period has been a preoccupation withcost-containment. Such intensive tracking of patientsfor billing purposes has led to a system replete withdata, yet one lopsided in its attention to cost issuesover quality concerns. Many initiatives to address thishave focused on improving the availability of quality-related data.

    In the USA, the public release of clinical out-comes data dates back to the decision in 1987 by theHealth Care Financing Administrations to publishhospital mortality data (Vladeck et al. 1988). Theseindicators, based on crudely adjusted administra-tive data, were severely criticized for lacking credi-bility and were subsequently abandoned in 1993. Thefirst report card based on clinical data specificallydesigned for assessing quality was the New YorkCardiac Surgery report card, first published in 1990(Hannan et al. 1994, 1995), which was closely followed by the Cardiac Surgery Report Card inPennsylvania (Bentley & Nash 1998). Many stategovernments now mandate the collection, analysisand publication of comparative performance in-formation, and websites offering health plan andphysician comparisons are abundant (Davies & Marshall 1999). The two largest accreditors of healthplans in the USA (the National Committee onQuality Assurance and the Joint Commission on theAccreditation of Health Care Organizations) bothnow stipulate the public reporting of performancedata as an accreditation criterion. Similarly, statutorybodies such as Health Care Financing Administration(HCFA) have also recently established a new seriesof quality standards for health plans that includepublic performance reporting through the MedicareCompare Program. All health plans that serveMedicare beneficiaries are now required to reportannually on the technical quality of care measured bythe Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set(HEDIS) and on patient-reported measures of satis-

    faction and quality, as measured by the ConsumerAssessment of Health Plans Survey (Epstein 2000).

    For all the recent activity around performancereporting, The Presidents Commission on ConsumerProtection and Quality in the Health Care Industry(1998) stated that existing information systems werenot adequate. It concluded that the US health careindustry would need to make a significant investmentin such systems in order to provide high-quality dataon the individual and comparative performance ofplans, facilities and practitioners.Thus, one key lessonfrom the US experience is that data produced as aby-product of the health care business do not providea sufficient basis for quality reporting. Although it istempting to utilize existing data, the problems in sodoing (e.g. data quality, data analysis, data validityand data meaningfulness) are legion.

    Major achievements of the report card movement

    From small and uncertain beginnings, the report cardmovement in the USA has grown into a huge anddiverse set of overlapping activities. These rangefrom local ad hoc data collection, through state-mandated schemes to national federal requirements.The public availability of the Medicare and Medicaiddatabases has fostered significant unregulated activ-ity in the areas of comparative analysis and pub...

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