Christine Cassel, MD, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, which reviews and endorses quality measures that are the basis for federal and private payment adjustments, added that while there are some examples of decisive improvement, "there's not nearly enough of them."
She said measures need to be "more understandable for consumers and policy makers" and they must be coordinated so public and private payers use the same measures, which they largely do not do today.
"One of the reasons that the employers can't get the information they need [is that] private insurance companies often use different measures or proprietary measures [than federal payers]."
More needs to be done, she said. For starters, considerable funding, specifically for developing quality measures was authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but has not yet been appropriated by Congress. That money could help develop the kind of measures consumers, and to a great extent providers, want.
"It doesn't just happen by snapping your fingers" and to date, smart people are trying to do the job with "a hodgepodge of support," she said.
"The bottom line is that mistakes, poor care, and complications hurt people and increase costs to workers, families, business and taxpayers. We can and must do better…"
Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus, (D-MT) called the hearing, entitled "The Path Forward," as a kind of "gut check" to examine the problems in measuring quality going forward as the PPACA changes the way providers are paid. He agreed that with so many multiple measures computed in different ways, there's confusion about who's providing good care.