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January 18, 2012

Faculty Develop Measures for Health Care Coordination Using Electronic Health Records

Improved coordination among providers across the health care system can eliminate redundancy in health services, improve patient safety and potentially reduce costs. Unfortunately, coordination failures are common and there are few standardized ways to measure these interactions.

Kitty Chan, PhD, an associate professor, and Jonathan P. Weiner, DrPH, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School, recently led a team in the development of performance measures designed to assess the quality of the primary care physician-specialist referral process, one of the most common coordination areas in health care.

"Without good measures of coordination, quality improvement and pay for performance programs focusing on coordination activities are not feasible," stated Weiner.

The goal of the study, supported by the Commonwealth Fund, was to derive feasible and valid measures using electronic health records (EHRs), which are rapidly spreading across the nation. After interviews with practicing office-based physicians, experts and individuals in practice settings already using EHRs, the team developed a core set of five electronic measures of coordination for use in the ambulatory care setting.

The study was done in collaboration with the National Committee for Quality of Care. Several national organizations are considering the measures developed by this study for implementation as part of private and public sector performance monitoring programs.

The Commonwealth Fund recently published a downloadable issue brief and technical monograph describing the study and the implications of using performance EHR-based measures for care coordination throughout the health care system.

Media contact: Tim Parsons, director of Public Affairs, at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.