U.S. hospitals realizing it pays to measure quality of care

Ahead of a value-based purchasing initiative to begin for Medicare in 2014 under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, hospitals across the U.S. should be taking a long, hard look at their quality processes and how they measure their success. Value-based purchasing under the U.S. healthcare reform means Medicare will start paying institutions more for scoring high on a series of measures that indicate patient care, and will pay less to those who do not meet the quality benchmarks.

While quality of health care is important if only to ensure patients receive satisfactory care, a few hospitals in the U.S. who earnestly measure their quality processes are starting to notice an additional benefit to ensuring the utmost care is delivered. One successful case is Detroit’s Henry Ford Health Systems, which launched a quality improvement program in 2008 called the “No Harm Campaign”. The program sought to improve patient care and reduce the amount of patient “harm events” that occurred. In doing so, over a four-year period and across its five hospitals, Henry Ford recently announced it saw $10 million in cost savings by reducing infections, improving procedures and preventing patient and employee injuries.

Tracking ROI of quality programs is relatively new to the healthcare industry. Henry Ford’s chief quality officer, William Conway M.D., admits in Quality News Today  that “in most industries, improving quality reduces costs, but was not recognized in healthcare until only recently because insurers and Medicare used to pay hospitals for higher utilization generated by mistakes, errors or bad outcomes.”

Now that the new healthcare law signed under the Obama administration will begin zeroing in on quality of care metrics and directly linking compensation to achievement in this area, it’s expected that the industry will see an increase in the investment hospitals are making towards tracking, measuring and continuously improving the quality of their care.

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