Employer and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries and plan members hear a lot about about health care quality and its measures. However few understand what the quality data and ratings relied upon by health plans, Medicare or Medicaid, accreditation agencies or others making assertions about health care quality or how that data is measured.
While quality measures and meanings take many forms, one key measure used by Medicare, Medicaid and many other health plans, lawmakers, health quality commentators and others evaluating health care provider “quality” is the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information (“ONC”) electronic clinical quality measures (“eCQMs”) that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) requires many health care providers participating in Medicare or Medicaid to report for purposes of program participation and reimbursement.
eCQMs As Measure of HealthCare Quality
Electronic clinical quality measures or “eCQMs” are tools that ONC develops with stakeholder input to help Medicare and Medicaid measure and track the quality of health care services that eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) provide, as generated by a provider’s electronic health record (EHR). CMS Measuring and reporting eCQMs helps to ensure that our health care system is delivering effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care. CMS’ eCQMs measure many aspects of patient care, including:
- Patient and Family Engagement
- Patient Safety
- Care Coordination
- Population/Public Health
- Efficient Use of Healthcare Resources
- Clinical Process/Effectiveness
To successfully participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Programs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) requires eligible providers, eligible hospitals, critical access hospitals and dual-eligible hospitals electronically to report on eCQMs determined by CMS that require the use of data from the provider’s certified electronic health record (“EHR”) technology (CEHRT) or other health information technology systems to measure and report quality measures in a standardized manner. For calendar year (CY) 2022, Medicare Promoting Interoperability Program participants arerequired to report on three self-selected eCQMs and the Safe Use of Opioids – Concurrent PrescribingeCQM from the set of nine available for at least three self-selected quarters of CY 2022 data. To report eCQMs successfully, health care providers must use an EHR and adhere to the requirements identified by the CMS quality program. Failing to meet these eCQM reporting requirements can prevent the provider from meeting meaningful use requirements and trigger reductions in reimbursements for care.
Health care quality, credentialing, accreditation, and other provider, health plan and other organizations also use the eCQMs data alone or with other quality measures and tools to set standards and assess and enforce quality goals and performances.
2022 eCQMs Updates
Each year, CMS makes updates to the eCQMs approved for CMS programs to reflect changes in:
- Evidence-based Medicine
- Code Sets
- Measure Logic
Conducted annually as part of OCN’s eCQM Issue Tracker project, the CRP provides eCQM users the opportunity to review and comment on draft changes to the eCQM specifications and supporting resources under consideration by the measure stewards. The goal of the CRP is for eCQM implementers to comment on the potential impact of draft changes to eCQMs so CMS and measure stewards can make improvements to meet CMS’s intent of minimizing provider and vendor burden in the collection, capture, calculation, and reporting of eCQMs.
Every Fall, health care providers, health plans and insurers and other stakeholders concerned about these eCQMs have the opportunity to review and comment on draft changes to the eCQM specifications and supporting resources under consideration by ONC as part of ONC’s 2022 Change Review Process (CRP) for the ONC Project Tracking System. Interested stakeholders must monitor the posting of issues and act quickly to share their feedback, however, as stakeholders have only two weeks to comment after a ONC posts a new proposed eCQm change.
Stakeholders with an account on the ONC Project Tracking System can monitor, review and comment on proposed eCQM changes through the eCQM Issue Tracker project during the two week period following the date the issue is posted in the eCQM Issue Tracker. To participate in the CRP, users must have an ONC Project Tracking System account. New users can create an account via the ONC Project Tracking System website.
The following table reflects the eCQM issues open on the eCQM Issue Tracker as of September 14, 2022 and their scheduled comment closing dates
Issues Open for Public Comment As of 9/14/2022
|CMS eCQM Identifier and Measure Title||CRP Issue Title||Issue Number and Link||Issue Type||Goal of Review||Public Comment Open Date||Public Comment Close Date|
|Multiple measures||Incorporate ‘Diagnosis’ datatype to capture Hospice Care||CQM-5561||Logic; Value Set||Obtain clinical and technical feedback||09/07/2022||09/21/2022|
|CMS128: Anti-depressant Medication Management; CMS136: Follow-Up Care for Children Prescribed ADHD Medication (ADD); CMS156: Use of High-Risk Medications in Older Adults||Update Cumulative Medication Duration function to calculate maximum daily frequency||CQM-5562||Logic||Obtain technical feedback||09/07/2022||09/21/2022|
|Multiple measures||Expand codes using ‘Diagnosis’ datatype to capture Palliative Care||CQM-5563||Logic; Value Set||Obtain clinical and technical feedback||09/07/2022||09/21/2022|
|Multiple measures||Require 2 indications of frailty to meet exclusion||CQM-5564||Header; Logic; Measure Intent Clarification||Obtain clinical feedback||09/07/2022||09/21/2022|
|CMS127: Pneumococcal Vaccination Status for Older Adults||Expand numerator to allow for pneumococcal vaccination since 19 years of age||CQM-5565||Header; Logic; Measure Intent Clarification||Obtain clinical feedback||09/07/2022||09/21/2022|
As proposed eCQM changes are posted for public comment as CRP issues. ONC informs eCQM accountholders of the proposed change or eCQM issue by posting for review in the ONC Project Tracking System. Accountholders only have two weeks after ONC posts a proposed eCQM to comment on the posted issue. Stakeholders interested in commenting on a particular issue must submit their comment in accordance with the directions within this two week period.
Depending on the nature of the proposed change, the proposed changing could impact the meaning, or significance of a eCQM by changing the way it is measured, the level or reporting or other aspects of the data and its magnitude. Consequently, understanding both what a eCQM measures and how that measurement is made and reported is important both to understand what actually is measured and to distinguish between changes in the measure resulting from a change in the actual delivery of the care the measure purports to measure versus changes in the result impacted by changes in measurement or reporting. For this reason, employer and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and other impacted stakeholders should use care to critically evaluate the eCQM and othe quality claims armed with a clear understanding both of the elements of the measurement and of any changes made to the measures across time that could influence the reported data and its significance in measuring and reporting quality and quality trends.
We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.
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About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.
Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.
For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.
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