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AHCPR Announces New Quality Measurement Network

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Press Release Date: November 29, 1996

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) announced today that it has awarded a contract to MEDSTAT, worth up to $5 million over three years, to develop the Quality Measurement Network (QMNet).

The goal of the QMNet project is to create a quality measurement information resource through a collaboration between the public and private sectors. QMNet will build on the framework of AHCPR's prototype CONQUEST 1.0 (Computerized Needs-Oriented Quality Measurement Evaluation System), a landmark computer tool designed to make it easier for health plans, providers and purchasers to identify, choose and use clinical performance measures.

"Our goal is for QMNet to become a comprehensive, publicly accessible quality measurement resource that helps both the public and private sectors to improve the quality of care delivered in this nation," said AHCPR Administrator Clifton R. Gaus, Sc.D. "Our hope is that QMNet ultimately may aid in the creation of a free-standing quality network."

Currently, CONQUEST is the only available automated source of information on clinical performance measures, including whether the measure is an outcomes or process gauge, the type of review for which the measure was developed, the extent of validity and reliability testing which the measure has undergone, and the level of care or setting for which the measure was developed. QMNet will provide far more detailed and comprehensive information on a wider range of clinical performance measures.

Additionally, QMNet will provide extensive information on a greater number of medical conditions, including age groups affected, prevalence, utilization and costs, potentially preventable adverse outcomes, co-morbidities, risk factors, and clinical services recommended or not on the basis of scientifically based guidelines. In 1997, QMNet will begin releasing semiannual updates of this computer tool.

MEDSTAT and its subcontractors, the Harvard School of Public Health and Mikalix, will evaluate the extent to which the structure of CONQUEST meets the clinical performance measurement needs of public- and private-sector users; identify and evaluate additional measures and measure sets to be added to the measures database; and identify gaps in measure sets and areas of clinical performance measurement that need additional research and development. As part of QMNet, the contractors will provide technical assistance to users—via phone, Internet and mail support—on the most effective ways to use the databases.

To ensure that QMNet meets the needs of its intended audience, AHCPR has entered into a partnership with other leaders in the field of quality measurement: the Foundation for Accountability (FACCT), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). The partners will advise MEDSTAT on the technical development of QMNet.

"QMNet offers an exciting opportunity to create an organized, user-friendly, scientifically sound database of performance measures that can serve as a national resource for accrediting bodies and other major measurement purveyors in health care," said Dennis O'Leary, JCAHO president. "As such, it evaluates and fosters the efficient use of performance measures by health care organizations."

MEDSTAT also is charged with developing a feasibility study that may help transform QMNet into a private-sector, self-supporting entity at the end of the contract period.

"QMNet ultimately will give purchasers an easily accessible, up-to-date resource for identifying and selecting performance measures that reflect consumers' perspectives and accurately gauge whether the health care services they buy provide the best value," said David Lansky, president of FACCT. "The importance of a resource like this cannot be understated as health care costs continue to rise and demands on purchasers grow."

"QMNet will be invaluable in ensuring that science-based measures and other tools for improving quality of care will reach as wide an audience as possible," according to NCQA President Peggy O'Kane. "NCQA will make HEDIS an integral part of QMNet and any quality network that may develop."

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, a part of the U.S. Public Health Service, is the lead agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce its cost and enhance access to essential services. AHCPR's broad programs of research and technology assessment bring practical, science-based information to medical practitioners and to consumers and other health care purchasers.

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen J. Migdail, (301) 427-1855; Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864.

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