Hospitals actively working with Medicare's quality improvement organizations were no more likely to show improvement on 15 quality indicators than hospitals that weren't, according to a study of five states and the District of Columbia. The study's findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, raised "important questions about the effectiveness of quality improvement organizations," lead author Claire Snyder said. The main finding "was that quality is improving in hospitals regardless of the involvement" of QIOs, said Snyder, who recently completed her doctorate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The American Health Quality Association, which represents QIOs, said the study was flawed because it covered 17 months rather than the full 36-month work cycle of most QIOs. In addition, Medicare's QIO program was "substantially revised" in 2002, association President Jonathan Sugarman said. The study was based on data from 1999 to 2001, which was the most recent available. QIOs, formerly known as peer review organizations, contract with Medicare to provide quality improvement assistance to hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and home health agencies. Current funding for Medicare's QIO network is about $400 million annually. Read the abstract. -- by Andis Robeznieks