GAO: IT systems falling short in data collection

Filed under: Health Care |

Information technology systems provide some assistance for hospitals’ data-collection initiatives but fall short of completely automating the processes.

That’s one finding from a Government Accountability Office report about hospitals’ efforts to collect data for a series of quality measures.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ annual payment update program requires hospitals to submit the information every quarter to avoid reductions in Medicare payments.

For the report, GAO conducted case studies at eight hospitals and found that existing systems do not allow users to automate the entire process.

GAO found that IT systems helped hospital workers obtain information from patient records and helped them do it faster. But the study cites a number of technology limitations, including the use of both paper and electronic records, which makes it difficult to glean patient information.

Most officials at the hospitals studied considered full-scale automation of quality data collection and submission as a long-term prospect at best, the GAO report states.

The main barriers to complete automation include physicians’ reluctance to use information technology systems to record clinical information and the intrinsic complexity of the data CMS requires.

The GAO recommended that the Health and Human Services Department identify steps for promoting the use of information technology in collecting and submitting data to CMS, and inform interested parties about the steps and milestones for completing them.

CMS posts pay-for-performance measures

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced details about the 74 performance quality measures that will be used to decide 2007 bonuses for doctors who provide services to Medicare patients.

The measures are part of the voluntary Physician Quality Reporting Initiative overseen by CMS.

The program began after President George W. Bush signed legislation in December that provides for a payment of up to 1.5 percent in addition to physicians’ regular Medicare fees.

The first PQRI period runs from July 1 through Dec. 31.

Eligible physicians and medical professionals who choose to participate must pick the measures relevant to their patient care from the list. They then report by submitting the quality-data codes associated with the Medicare claims forms.

No prior registration is needed to participate in the program.

Also data will not be publicly reported. According to a study by the University of Chicago, less than one third of the physicians surveyed said they favored public reporting of quality scores in pay-for-performance programs.

The PQRI initiative is seen as a test for the widespread use of pay-for-performance programs.

Although many regional programs exist, the success of the Medicare initiative is a major driver for the broader national adoption of pay-for-performance.

The same University of Chicago study reports that three of four primary care physicians favor pay-for-performance programs, but only if the quality measures are deemed accurate.

However, echoing comments made in earlier forums, the study states that most physicians have little confidence that either health payers or the government will try hard to make such measures accurate.

The measures are available at

Women on track with health screenings; exercise lacking

Although data shows that more women are getting the message and receiving annual checkups, they fall short when it comes to eating healthy foods and exercising.

According to data about U.S. women from Quick Health Data Online, an online database provided by the Office on Women’s Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services):

  • 86 percent of women reported having a routine check-up within the past two years.
  • Almost 75 percent of women ages 40 and older reported getting a mammogram within the past two years.
  • Nearly 85 percent of all women report having a Pap smear within the past three years.
  • Nearly 75 percent of women reported having a cholesterol check within the past five years.
  • About 53 percent of women older than 50 reported receiving a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.


  • Only 28 percent of women reported eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Less than 50 percent of women reported exercising moderately to vigorously most days of the week.
  • More than half of all women reported being overweight or obese.

Dr. Wanda Jones, deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the Office on Women’s Health said that becoming healthier doesn’t involve making huge lifestyle changes.

Women can do simple things, like adding more fruits and vegetables into their daily diet … or joining the WOMAN (Women and girls Out Moving Across the Nation) Challenge to start walking toward better health,” Jones said.

The WOMAN Challenge is an eight-week physical fitness challenge that encourages participants to get 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of exercise every day.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.