Analytics February 3, 2023

Smart Benefit vs. Cost Data Collection

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

As a young disease-chasing EIS officer at the CDC, my managers instructed me to weigh the benefit of data collection versus its cost. When collecting patient survey information during a disease outbreak investigation, I kept my questionnaires to a single page, knowing that anything longer would lead to fewer responses. Keeping questionnaires short is a classic example demonstrating how less is more.

The recent CMS announcement in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that CMS finally learned that simple lesson.

More than 20 years ago, CMS began collecting quality-performance data and reporting results to the public. This data determined quality bonus payments, developed clinician networks, and facilitated provider marketing. Over these two decades, CMS expanded the amount of data collected as various CMS departments implemented their program-specific quality metrics. In addition, private entities began their quality performance journeys by creating metrics requiring a unique data set. The burden on clinicians, provider organizations, and payers became confusing and unmanageable. Organizations struggle to prioritize metrics and collect the needed data to report results. Some clinician burnout we see today is due to this unreasonable request for data.

CMS plans to streamline its metrics into a core set that, and I quote, “focus providers’ attention on measures that are meaningful for the health of broad segments of the population.”

This initiative by CMS intends to reduce provider burden by streamlining measures and allowing the automatic digital reporting of results. As CMS builds upon its foundational metrics, I hope it better leverages our investment in EMRs so that data already collected as part of care delivery further informs quality performance reports. The streamlining of metrics is a reasonable and necessary first step by CMS, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in the future.

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