FAQ Directory

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about NCQA’s various programs. If you don’t see what you are looking for in one of the entries below, you can  ask a question through My NCQA.

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11.17.2008 Risk adjustment How is risk adjustment defined for quality measures?

Case-mix adjustment considers variations in the health of physicians populations, often defined by age and gender. Severity is a patients degree of illness for a specific mix of conditions (e.g., cancer stages), morbidity or comorbidity. Together, case mix and severity are often called risk. Risk can be either the risk for needing a mix of medical services (utilization and associated costs) or the patients likelihood of achieving a specific level of quality-related outcome.

Risk adjustment may not apply to quality measures, particularly process measures. For quality measures, NCQA requires the organization to demonstrate that it has considered whether to risk-adjust measuresand that it has an explicit methodology if it does and an explicit rationale if it does not. If the organization determines that case-mix and severity adjustment do not apply to a quality measure, it provides documentation that supports the determination. If the organization adjusts measures for case-mix or severity, it provides documentation describing the methodology used.

11.17.2008 Measure specifications Since NQF does not publish the actual code sets for all its measures, how does NCQA determine that an organization is following the measure specifications as written?

NCQA recognizes that some NQF-endorsed or AQA-approved specifications may require additional specifications to implement in specific contexts. Organizations may supplement endorsed specifications as long as they follow all endorsed specifications and if such supplementation does not alter the intended numerator, denominator and exclusion criteria for the measure.

11.17.2008 Handling complaints For the file review component in PHQ 1 (re: member complaints), is there review of a minimum number of files? In other words, we do not anticipate a large number of this type of complaint.

There is no minimum requirement. If the total number of files is fewer than the requested 40 files, NCQA reviews the entire file universe. For file review elements, NCQA follows its 8/30 methodology. Refer to An Explanation of the 8 and 30 File Sampling Procedure on the NCQA Web site at www.ncqa.org/tabid/125/Default.aspx.

11.17.2008 Working with hospitals on reporting For PHQ 2, Element E, are plans required to share results, explain how they are used and get feedback from hospitals ONLY if they report the results in a format different from the primary data source. Is this NA if we only provide links to the data?

Factors 1 and 2 are NA if the organization does not change the format of its results from the primary data source. Factors 3 and 4 always apply and are scored irrespective of factors 1 and 2.

11.17.2008 Pay for Performance The draft program did not pertain to pay-for-performance programs, whose goal is QI at the practice, not public disclosure. Why was this added to "taking action?"

In the draft standards released for Public Comment in March 2008, NCQA included pay-for-performance but did not use that specific term; instead, we referred to payment strategies. Specifically, NCQA defined the Scope of Review for the majority of elements in PHQ 1 as: NCQA evaluates all measures the organization uses for measuring physician performance for the purpose of taking action.

In the Explanation, NCQA defined taking action as follows.

Publicly reporting physician performance on quality or cost or resource use

Using physician performance on quality or cost or resource use measures as a basis for network design (such as tiering), benefit design or payment strategies

NCQA defined payment strategies in Element M, Using Measure Results as follows.

The organization uses reimbursement to provide incentives for improvement among its physicians, practice sites or medical groups, or uses payment to reward performance.

In the final standards, NCQA used the term pay-for-performance and specifically narrowed the scope of programs included.

11.17.2008 Approved measures What percentage of an organization's measures must be approved by NQF, AQA or AMA/PCPI?

To achieve certification, the organization must score at least 50% on Element A, Measuring Physician Performance. The 50% score threshold requires that at least 50% but fewer than 60% of the measures used by the organization to measure physician quality for taking action meet the element (i.e., are standardized). To achieve full points (100%), at least 70% of the measures used by the organization to measure physician quality for taking action must meet the element (i.e., must be standardized)

11.17.2008 Standardized measures What counts in the denominator for standardized measuresall measures on which action is taken, or all quality measures on which action is taken?

For Element A, the denominator is all quality measures on which the action is based and the numerator is measures that meet the definition of standardized in the Explanation.

11.17.2008 Quality measures What criteria does NCQA use to determine what constitutes a quality measure vs. another kind of measure?

A quality measure is one of clinical performance or patient experience, where one can generally identify the direction of good, with a clear definition of what is better performance or worse performance.

11.17.2008 Collaborative data Must organizations include collaborative data for certification?

All measures on which an organization bases action are included in the scope of the PHQ Survey, including those that are developed and whose results are calculated as part of a collaborative. The exception is during the first year the standards are in effect (October 1, 2008_September 30, 2009). For surveys that start during that period, the organization may opt to carve out measures from a collaborative. The rationale for this exemption is two-fold. First, organizations will not need to wait until a collaborative undergoes a survey in order to have their own survey. Second, if the collaborative needs to make changes to any measures, methods or processes to meet the standard, it is not within the organizations control to make the changesalthough as a participant, it influences them. This allows time for the collaborative to make changes.

11.17.2008 Measure requirements Regarding standardized measures, will the requirement of 70% of measures being standardized increase over time or will it be held constant?

NCQA has not decided. All products are periodically evaluated and proposed changes are published for Public Comment before updates are released.

11.17.2008 Requests for corrections or changes What does NCQA look for in file review with regard to requests for corrections or changes?

Element G, Request for Corrections or Changes has four factors. 1. Documentation of the substance of the request 2. Investigation of the request 3. Notification of the specific reasons for the final decision 4. Notification of the outcome prior to taking action on measure results NCQA reviews an organizations documentation to determine if it follows its process for handling physician requests for corrections or changes related to the four factors. In response to inquiries from many organizations, NCQA issued a clarification on the expectations of the process (which is scored in Element F) and the file review against that process. See the Corrections, Clarifications and Policy Changes Web page at www.ncqa.org/tabid/120/Default.aspx.

11.17.2008 Survey pricing How much does the PHQ Survey cost?