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 Productivity measures Are productivity measures within scope? For example, number of visits per half day: does NCQA classify this as a utilization measure or as something else?

No. Productivity measures are out of scope for the 2008 PHQ standards. Quality, cost, resource use and utilization measures are in scope if the organization takes action based on them.

11.17.2008 Surveyors for PHQ certification What organizations will conduct surveys now or in the future? Only NCQA or, for example, would Licensed HEDIS Audit Organizations conduct them?

NCQA performs surveys on the PHQ standards, but may develop standards for auditing physician measurement and a program for certifying auditors. With such standards, NCQA will consider making external audit a requirement.

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 Taking action on cost measures Is an organization prohibited from using cost efficiency if quality results are not available?

Yes. The organization may not take action based on cost, resource use or utilization results alone. This is a must pass requirement for certification and is consistent with the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project Patient Charter.

The organization is required to consider quality in conjunction with cost, resource use or utilization when it takes action. To the extent that the organization develops and presents a composite score or rating using cost, resource use or utilization and quality measures, it must disclose the specific measures for each category and their relative weight when it determines the composite or rating.

11.17.2008 Board certification and physician quality Will NCQA accept board certification, maintenance of certification and NCQA Recognition as markers of physician quality, or must there also be measurement of NQF markers?

The organization may take action based on physician completion of an ABMS or AOA board performance-based improvement module (generally, in conjunction with maintenance of certification) at least every two years. These activities may be used as a quality measurement activity to meet PHQ 1. Under certain circumstances, the organization may use measures from other national or regional performance-based designation programs to satisfy some or all requirements for PHQ 1, Element A. The organization must discuss this in advance with NCQA to determine if the designation program meets the criteria.

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 Measure reliability If a plan demonstrates a different methodology for statistical validity, would the methodology be considered?

Element C, Measurement Methodology requires the organization to have a method for determining measurement error and measure reliability. Element H, Principles for Use of Results sets requirements for minimum observations or levels of measure reliability or confidence intervalsas applicable for quality and cost, resource use or utilization measures.

For calculating measure reliability for PHQ, the organization must use the method described in the Explanation in Element C under the subhead Measurement error and measure reliability. Measure reliability is defined as the ratio of the variance between physicians to the variance within one physician, plus the variance between physicians.

NCQA does not prescribe the method used to calculate confidence intervals because the appropriate method may vary based on the parameter (e.g., mean or proportion).

11.17.2008 Differences between health plan (MCO/PPO) and PHQ standards We went through MCO accreditation in 2007. PHQ standards were required in our standards. How is this different? How is this the same?

NCQAs PHQ product was released in April 2006 as part of its Quality Plus Program, a voluntary suite of areas where NCQA-Accredited plans could earn distinction. NCQA Health Plan (formerly MCO) Accreditation standards do not include PHQ requirements.

11.17.2008 Survey Pricing If we go through provisional certification and are then required to go through full certification within 12 months, does our organization get a reduced price?

No. Survey prices apply to each discrete survey; NCQA does not apply credit forward to a future survey. Survey pricing reflects the amount and level of resources NCQA dedicates to evaluating an organization and at the time of the Full Certification Survey, NCQA must re-evaluate the organization on all requirements.

11.17.2008 Changing measure specifications With regard to patient experience measures, may we use items from CAHPS-CG but change the referent time period? For example, not rating the last 12 months, but rating the last visit and changing the response categories accordingly?

No. Changing the referent time period materially alters the measure and would therefore not qualify as a standard measure for Element A.

Patient experience measures endorsed, developed or accepted by the NQF, AQA, AMA PCPI, national accreditors or government agencies may be used, but the organization must follow the measure or instrument specifications as written.

11.17.2008 Measure specifications Expand on the minimum denominator criteria for quality measures. Do you mean minimum observations per measure? Or minimum observations per provider? Or is that already in the requirements?

In measuring physician performance and distinguishing among peers, the organization is required to specify minimum observations or denominators for each measure on which the action is based. Denominators are patient observations, which may include multiple observations for an individual.

Criteria must be defined at the level on which action will be taken.

Note: This applies if the organization uses minimum observations rather than confidence intervals or measure reliability.

11.17.2008 PHQ and HP Accreditation When will the PHQ standards be folded in to the health plan accreditation standards?

NCQA has not made a decision about incorporating the PHQ standards into health plan accreditation. Should NCQA decide to do so, it will put such a proposal out for Public Comment.