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Physician and Hospital Quality Certification

NCQA’s Physician and Hospital Quality (PHQ) certification program evaluates how well organizations measure and report the quality and cost of physicians and hospitals. The PHQ seal represents an impartial third-party certification of provider measurement programs, and provides assurance that such efforts use valid, transparent methodologies, and measure on quality—not cost alone.

More than 60 health plans have achieved Distinction in Physician and Hospital Quality through the 2006 version of the program. In 2008, NCQA released a PHQ Certification program reflecting changes in the provider measurement field and demand from purchasers and regulators.

This program is open to any organization conducting functions evaluated by the standards, whether a health plan, a measurement collaborative, a provider network or an information provider such as a Web site.

Four key principles serve as the foundation of PHQ Certification:

  • Standardization and sound methodology. This allows results to be compared across organizations.
  • Transparency. Organizations should offer physicians the opportunity to provide input on measurement programs. Organizations should also provide clear, understandable information about how the results will be used.
  • Collaboration. Where possible, organizations should pool their data on standardized
    measures to produce results with greater statistical reliability.
  • Action on quality and cost. Organizations should not sacrifice quality for cost reduction. Organizations must not use results of cost measurement alone.

PHQ Certification Options

Organizations may seek any of the following certifications. Certification is effective for two years.

  • Certification for Physician Quality (PQ Certification).
  • Certification for Hospital Quality (HQ Certification).
  • Interim Certification for Physician Quality (Interim PQ Certification): Organizations with a current physician program – prior to its public release – may come forward for survey under a subset of the PQ Standards. Interim certification indicates that the organization meets key standards for methodology and transparency before public release. Interim Certification expires 180 days after receiving Certification. Organizations seeking PQ or PHQ Certification must undergo a Follow-up survey against the remaining PHQ 1 elements within 120 days of the public release of their physician quality program to achieve full certification.

PHQ Certification Survey Types

For the three certification options, NCQA offers six types of surveys to organizations seeking certification.

  • Certification Survey: During a Certification Survey, NCQA evaluates the organization's programs for provider measurement and action against the relevant standards. This type of Certification is for any entity seeking a decision independently.
  • Collaborative Participant Survey: This survey type is available for organizations that use results from a Collaborative survey.
  • Collaborative Survey: A Collaborative survey in instances where the collaborative provides centralized functions related to the standards on behalf of organizations that participate in the collaborative measurement initiative.

In-Depth PHQ Certification Information

New Online Application Process

NCQA now accepts applications for its Accreditation and Certification programs online. Hardcopy applications are no longer available from the NCQA Download Center.


Learn more

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