What Is the State of Quality Measurement in Spine Surgery?

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Abstract

Background

Value-based healthcare models rely on quality measures to evaluate the efficacy of healthcare delivery and to identify areas for improvement. Quality measure research in other areas of health care has generally shown that there is a limited number of available quality measures and that those that exist disproportionately focus on processes as opposed to outcomes. The purpose of this study was to assess the current state of quality measures and candidate quality measures in spine surgery.

Questions/purposes

(1) How many quality measures and candidate quality measures are currently available? (2) According to Donabedian domains and National Quality Strategy (NQS) priorities, what aspects or domains of care do the present quality measures and candidate quality measures represent?

Methods

We systematically reviewed the National Quality Forum, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Physician Quality Reporting System for quality measures relevant to spine surgery. A systematic search for candidate quality measures was also performed using MEDLINE/PubMed and Embase as well as publications from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the North American Spine Society. Clinical practice guidelines were included as candidate quality measures if their development was in accordance with Institute of Medicine criteria for the development of clinical practice guidelines, they were based on consistent clinical evidence including at least one Level I study, and they carried the strongest possible recommendation by the developing body. Quality measures and candidate quality measures were then pooled for analysis and categorized by clinical focus, NQS priority, and Donabedian domain. Our initial search yielded a total of 3940 articles, clinical practice guidelines, and quality measures, 74 of which met criteria for inclusion in this study.

Results

Of the 74 measures studied, 29 (39%) were quality measures and 45 (61%) were candidate quality measures. Fifty of 74 (68%) were specific to the care of the spine, and 24 of 74 (32%) were related to the general care of spine patients. The majority of the spine-specific measures were process measures (45 [90%]) and focused on the NQS priority of “Effective Clinical Care” (44 [88%]). The majority of the general care measures were also process measures (14 [58%]), the highest portion of which focused on the NQS priority of “Patient Safety” (10 [42%]).

Conclusions

Given the large number of pathologies treated by spine surgeons, the limited number of available quality measures and candidate quality measures in spine surgery is inadequate to support the transition to a value-based care model. Additionally, current measures disproportionately focus on certain aspects or domains of care, which may hinder the ability to appropriately judge an episode of care, extract usable data, and improve quality. Physicians can steward the creation of meaningful quality measures by participating in clinical practice guideline development, assisting with the creation and submission of formal quality measures, and conducting the high-quality research on which effective guidelines and quality measures depend.

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