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Avoiding pitfalls in chronic disease quality measurement: a case for the next generation of technical quality measures.

Kerr EA, Krein SL, Vijan S, Hofer TP, Hayward RA. Avoiding pitfalls in chronic disease quality measurement: a case for the next generation of technical quality measures. The American journal of managed care. 2001 Nov 1; 7(11):1033-43.

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The true utility of quality measurement lies in its ability to inspire quality improvement, with resultant enhancements in the processes and outcomes of care. Because quality measurement is expensive, it is difficult to justify using measures that are not likely to lead to important improvements in health. Many current measures of chronic disease technical quality, however, have one or more pitfalls that prevent them from motivating quality improvement reactions. These pitfalls include that: (1) measured processes of care lack strong links to outcomes; (2) actionable processes of care are not measured; (3) measures do not target those at highest risk; (4) measures do not allow for patient exceptions; and (5) intermediate outcome measures are not severity adjusted. To exemplify recent advancements and current pitfalls in chronic disease quality measurement, we examine the evolution of quality measures for diabetes mellitus and discuss the limitations of many currently used diabetes mellitus care measures. We then propose more clinically meaningful "tightly linked" measures that examine clinical processes directly linked to outcomes, target populations with specific diagnoses or intermediate disease outcomes that contribute to risk for poor downstream health outcomes, and explicitly incorporate exceptions. We believe that using more tightly linked measures in quality assessment will identify important quality of care problems and is more likely to produce improved outcomes for those with chronic diseases.

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