Physicians Spend $15.4 Billion Each Year on Reporting Quality Measures

Priyam Vora

Each year US physician practices in 4 common specialties (cardiology, orthopedics, primary care, and multispecialty practices) spend 785 hours per physician and more than $15.4 billion to report quality measures. The quality measurement is definitely recommended, but the cost associated with it is phenomenal and unnecessary, according to a study, published in Health Affairs, that emphasizes the need for better and standardized measures to bring down the cost of reporting quality measures.
 
The number of quality measures by external entities such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance plans has increased rapidly during the past decade. A physician spends more than 15 hours each week dealing with external quality measures such as tracking quality measures, developing, and implementing data collection processes, entering information into the medical record, and collecting and transmitting data. This amounts to an incredible 785.2 staff and physician hours per physician per year.
 
"On top of the obscene waste of billions of dollars each year on quality measures, the most alarming thing about this study is that nearly three-fourths of the groups reported that the quality measures are not even clinically relevant,” Halee Fischer-Wright, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, said in a statement.
 
The average physician spent more than 2 hours each week dealing with quality measures. Ideally, this would be enough time to care for approximately 9 additional patients.
 
“This study proves that the current top-down approach has failed,” Fischer-Wright said. “It serves no purpose to have over three thousand competing measures of quality across government and private initiatives.”
 
Methods and Results
The researchers found that on an average, physicians and staff spent a total of 15.1 hours per physician per week dealing with quality measures. More surprising was the amount of time spent only for entering information into the medical record—at least 12.5 hours of physician and staff time per physician per week.
 
In terms of money, the time spent by physicians and staff transforms into an average cost of $40,069 per physician per year. Primary care practices spent $50,468, compared to $34,924 for cardiology practices and $31,471 for orthopedics practices. In short, the total amount spent annually by physician practices in these specialties dealing with external quality measures is a whopping $15.4 billion.
 
Need for Standardized Measures
There is much to gain from quality measurement, but the current system is far from being efficient and contributes to negative physician attitudes toward quality measures.
 
“Although standardization is critical, if measures don't improve patient care, it’s an exercise in futility. As the largest contributor to the problem, the federal government needs to get out of the business of dictating patient care through wasteful mandates and create simplified systems to support medical practices in improving quality across the country,” concludes Fisher-Wright.
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