A $637,000 grant will boost the plans of the National Committee for Quality Assurance to develop measures of how effectively the nation's health plans are caring for chronically ill people.
The 18-month grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will be used to support development of chronic-care performance measures, which are targeted for eventual inclusion in the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set, or HEDIS.
It is the second grant for the NCQA under a foundation program to fund initiatives furthering care of the chronically ill in HMOs. The first phase examined the feasibility of developing performance indicators related to treatment of chronic illness.
That project identified four conditions on which to focus development: major depression, childhood asthma, diabetes and coronary artery disease. The newly funded phase is designed to develop, test and evaluate indicators that measure health-plan performance in those four areas.
"Chronic care is the fastest growing segment of the healthcare system," said Jeffrey Harris, M.D., managed-care coordinator of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and chairman of the project's steering committee.
"As more and more of the 43 million Americans affected by chronic conditions move into managed-care plans, it is imperative that measures exist to monitor how well those plans care for those patients," Harris said.
Healthcare provider organizations also are recognizing the growing importance of identifying chronically ill populations and devising treatment plans that make the most of the multiple care sites and services within integrated health networks.
For example, an alliance of 27 healthcare networks called the National Chronic Care Consortium recently released a step-by-step development tool aimed at fostering the integration of services to keep track of the chronically ill and prevent further disability (See story, p. 33).
The program includes a range of materials to fortify managers and clinicians with information about what it takes to shift an organization's focus to patient-centered monitoring and intervention-eliminating the facility-centered approach that works against prevention and follow-up care.