Nine New IT Standards Indentified by NQF

Nine new voluntary consensus standards were endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) for health information technology. These relate to interoperability of EHRs, quality managements, medical homes, electronic prescribing, and case management. These tools can help providers identify those areas where health information tools (HIT) can be incorporated to improve care.

Two of the nine new measures are intended to increase the adoption of interoperable EHRs. The first measure considers use of EHRs as a tool to manage clinical data in the practice setting. The second measure, alternatively, considers how clinical data is transferred to external sources such as laboratories. Those two measures were developed in light of the EHR certification criteria set forth by the Certification Commission for Health Care Information Technology (CCHIT).

Other standards described include structural standard for electronic care management, including use of IT by providers both during patient visits and between visits. Those are considered to assess use of health IT as a tool to track patient lab results and preferences, support clinicians in the provision of care that follows evidence-based guidelines, and identify those patients who require care.

The President and CEO of NQF notes that these standards are key milestones required to ensure high-quality care that focuses on patients. Availability of interoperable health IT enables sharing of information on patients electronically. In addition, patients can be tracked throughout the healthcare system. This can also reduce the use of unncessary tests.

Incorporation of these tools and systems decreases the opportunity for errors. Previously published data indicates that HIT tools decrease medication erors by one-fifth. An additional benefit is the opportunity to gather more data from across the continuum of care. The new measures recently endorsed by the NQF further support assessment of health IT productivity.

NQF procured the assistance from other organizations in developing these new standards. Those include The Quality Insights of Pennsylvania (QIP), the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

September 4, 2008 Related topics: Quality, Safety, Errors

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