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Methods for improving efficiency in quality measurement: the example of pain screening.

Bentley TG, Malin J, Longino S, Asch S, Dy S, Lorenz KA. Methods for improving efficiency in quality measurement: the example of pain screening. International journal for quality in health care : journal of the International Society for Quality in Health Care. 2011 Dec 1; 23(6):657-63.

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OBJECTIVE: Collecting unnecessary data when assessing quality of care wastes valuable resources. We evaluated three approaches for estimating quality-measure adherence and determined minimum visit data required to achieve accurate estimates. DESIGN: We abstracted medical records for calculating physician-level pain screening rates as: visit-specific, using single-visit data for each patient; visit-level average, using data for all patients and visits; and patient-level average, using data from a subset of patients and visits. SETTING: VA Greater Los Angeles Health-care System, 2006. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred and six patients with Stage IV solid tumors. INTERVENTION: Pain screening at every medical encounter, measured by a 0-10 numeric rating scale and reported to the national Medicare insurance program under a 'pay-for-reporting' program. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Amount of visit data needed to reach the smallest 95% confidence interval (CI) and stable pain screening estimates. RESULTS: Pain screening occurred at 22% (23/106; 95% CI: 14-30%) of initial visits and 50% (8/16; 95% CI: 25-75%) of single visits. Across all visits, screening adherence averaged 34% when estimated at the visit-level precision and 30% at the patient level. Maximum patient-level precision was reached at visit 4 (95% CI: 8%) and visit level at visit 14 (95% CI: 6%). Using patient-level and visit-level approaches, estimates stabilized at visits 8 and 11, respectively, and reached within 1 percentage point of the steady-state value at visits 4 and 9. CONCLUSION: To address low-pain screening among cancer patients, an oncology pain screening measure may be most efficiently evaluated with data from a sample of patients and visits. This approach may be valid for visit-level quality measures in other settings.

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