CMS Quality Conference: New Digital Deadline, Aligned Priorities

March 10, 2021 · Matt Brock

We can’t let a full week close before we congratulate CMS on its successful annual Quality Conference. We’re enthusiastic supporters of much of what we heard, especially CMS’ own commitment to cut its deadline for digital transformation in half. The ten-year plan is now a challenging five-year plan.

CMS’s hard work and the clear plans it shared at the conference deserve our recognition. Our own quality initiatives—our goals—match many of the government’s plans for improving the delivery of care across the country.

“They put a lot of irons in the fire at this conference, relevant to everyone who works in quality,” said Frank Micciche, NCQA Vice-President of Public Policy and External Relations. “CMS sets the agenda for so much in the quality world.”

“I feel very aligned with CMS in terms of what they’re prioritizing,” he added.

CMS and NCQA: Aligned Priorities

Two key priorities listed in our recent Health Care Quality Recommendations for the Biden Administration also top CMS’ list.

Equity. It’s heartening to see CMS continue and strengthen its pursuit of equitable care for all. We’re also impressed with the Office of Minority Health’s (OMH) prominent role at the conference, and its continued influence across CMS to implement equitable policies and programs. You may already know, NCQA worked with OMH for several years to identify and address racial/ethnic, geographic, and urban/rural disparities in care for patients with chronic kidney disease. We commit to continue this pursuit and look forward to working with CMS to find the best way we can assist. Equity finds a starring role in CMS’ Meaningful Measures 2.0 plan summarized at the conference. That’s presumably a key component of the multi-year plan CMS promises to promote equity through quality measures.

That leads us to our second significant shared priority. You guessed it.

Digital Measurement. Big news. Bold news. CMS announced it’s moving up its own deadline to transition to all-digital quality measures. The 2030 goal is out. 2025 is the new target. That’s bold indeed. We welcome it and the clear challenge to the industry as a whole to get on board. We, of course, sought this commitment to produce reliable and valid measurement results across multiple payers and across multiple levels of the care delivery system.

“CMS’ talk about measurement at multiple levels is very aligned with our own digital measures roadmap,”  observed Brad Ryan, MD, NCQA Chief Product Officer. “It aligns with where we want to go in developing measures for providers and the delivery system.”

It was exciting to hear the government’s vision to employ digital solutions and digital measurement to improve quality. CMS leaders enthusiastically promoted their Quality Measurement Action Plan (QMAP) with the stated vision of using, “impactful quality measures to improve health outcomes and deliver value by empowering patients to make informed care decisions while reducing the burden to clinicians.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

CMS Conference: FHIR Aligned

We also found affirmation in CMS’s commitment to Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) as a foundation for its future digital measurement system. We’ve embraced the same standard in our own plans. FHIR reduces the burden of EHR data transfers, by leveraging FHIR already required for interoperability. HL7, the company you may describe as FHIR-keepers works alongside us each summer to present the Digital Quality Summit.

One final conference observation, we applaud the Core Quality Measures Collaborative (CMS, AHIP and NQF). They’ve expanded their horizons, adding new topics for collaboration including digital measurement.

It’s gratifying to see we’re all singing from a similar songbook. There are so many opportunities to improve. And CMS couldn’t have been clearer. It’s challenging its own leaders—and all of us—to join the revolution underway.

Emphatic on equity. Decidedly digital.

Tall order. Worth the pursuit. Congrats CMS. We look forward to the work ahead, and next year’s conference—presumably in person—back in Baltimore.


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