Transparency in health care is the new normal

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Transparency in health care is the new normal

High-value health care: that’s the goal, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our community. No one knowingly chooses low value, not for something as important as health care. We all want health care that offers the best possible outcomes, with confidence that no matter where we go for care that we’ll reliably experience high quality and effective care – that there’s “no wrong door”  to go through when seeking care. We want safety and to trust that things won’t be done to us or given to us that we don’t need, that won’t help us and may harm us. And, of course, we need to know that when we get the test, procedure or prescription that’s recommended, we won’t have to dig deeply into our life savings to pay for it.

How do we know whether we are reliably offering high value health care all across Washington state, from Walla Walla to Yakima to Port Angeles? Transparency – measuring performance and making information available about quality, patient experience, potentially unnecessary care, pricing – is an essential part of the answer. Here in our state, the Washington Health Alliance has worked closely with the Washington State Health Care Authority and the Healthier Washington initiative to develop broad agreement around a Common Measure Set for Health Care Quality and Cost. This is a set of measures that have been selected to help us collectively track improvements in health and to better understand how close we are to meeting our goal of reliably providing high value health care.  These measures provide a focus for a number of domains (e.g., access to care, prevention and screening, care for chronic illness, behavioral health and care provided by hospitals) as well as a focus on different populations (children, adolescents and adults).

Each year, subject matter experts come together to review the Common Measure Set to make sure it’s as robust as it can be in specific areas.  Last year, we focused on behavioral health. This year, we are focusing on pediatric care.  During November, you have the chance to review and comment on the proposed changes for the pediatric measures that will be a part of the Common Measure Set, starting in 2017. Developing consensus around and using a standardized set of measures is an important tool to drive better health care value in our state.

Transparency in health care is the new normal. Variation in the quality of health care in our state is endemic. Even for medications, tests and treatments supported by overwhelming evidence, there remains a remarkable range in the frequency with which they are likely to be provided. It is only through transparency that we know this, that we can identify opportunities for improvement. But knowing is not enough. We have to understand and USE information to make different decisions, sometimes do more, sometimes do less and ultimately implement changes for the better.

At the Alliance, we understand that transparency is not a panacea. But to achieve our goal of high value health care, together we have to change what it means to be a patient, provider and purchaser of health care; making information about variation in quality and cost ubiquitous is a part of how we’ll get there. So, measurement, yes. Only measurement, no. We need to measure, understand and act.

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