The Quality Disconnect in Healthcare

Posted on February 2, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

There’s a big problem with the current healthcare model. There’s no real financial incentive to make sure you’re practicing the highest quality care possible. Doctors don’t get paid for quality. Patients don’t select a doctor based on the clinical quality of the doctor since the patient has no way of measuring a doctor’s clinical quality. The clinical quality a doctor provides doesn’t move the needle on her business.

Certainly, I’m not saying that doctors don’t provide quality care. It is also true that over time a doctor could grow a reputation as a poor quality doctor, but those are usually only the extreme cases that end up in court with big medical class action lawsuits.

What’s amazing is that most doctors can’t event evaluate the quality of another doctor. An orthopedic surgeon has no way to evaluate how well an ENT is doing quality wise. Doctors of the same specialty could evaluate a colleague’s clinical quality, but that doesn’t happen in the current system.

In a perfect world, we could create payments based on the quality of care a doctor provides. That makes a lot of sense and it’s what we do in a lot of other industries. We pay people who provide higher quality more than we pay people who provide lower quality. The problem in healthcare is that we don’t have any good way to measure quality.

While I believe there’s no good way to measure quality, that doesn’t mean that it won’t keep organizations from trying. In fact, that’s the basis of much of MACRA and the PQRS program before it. Same goes for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). These are all efforts to evaluate the quality of care that’s being given and reimburse based on those quality indicators. Most doctors will tell you, that’s not a very good system if you want quality.

What’s screwed up about these quality measures is that they do nothing to actually lower the cost of healthcare. Poor quality care only represents a small portion of the massive premium we pay for healthcare in the US. The real costs come from outrageous drug pricing, pallative care, medical liability fears, and chronic conditions. Those are the four areas we should really be focusing our efforts on. The problem is that there’s not a lot of will in healthcare to address these challenging issues.