Background: Electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) from electronic health records (EHRs) are a key component of quality improvement (QI) initiatives in small-to-medium size primary care practices, but using eCQMs for QI can be challenging. Organizational strategies are needed to effectively operationalize eCQMs for QI in these practice settings.
Objective: This study aimed to characterize strategies that seven regional cooperatives participating in the EvidenceNOW initiative developed to generate and report EHR-based eCQMs for QI in small-to-medium size practices.
Methods: A qualitative study comprised of 17 interviews with representatives from all seven EvidenceNOW cooperatives was conducted. Interviewees included administrators were with both strategic and cooperative-level operational responsibilities and external practice facilitators were with hands-on experience helping practices use EHRs and eCQMs. A subteam conducted 1-hour semistructured telephone interviews with administrators and practice facilitators, then analyzed interview transcripts using immersion crystallization. The analysis and a conceptual model were vetted and approved by the larger group of coauthors.
Results: Cooperative strategies consisted of efforts in four key domains. First, cooperative adaptation shaped overall strategies for calculating eCQMs whether using EHRs, a centralized source, or a "hybrid strategy" of the two. Second, the eCQM generation described how EHR data were extracted, validated, and reported for calculating eCQMs. Third, practice facilitation characterized how facilitators with backgrounds in health information technology (IT) delivered services and solutions for data capture and quality and practice support. Fourth, performance reporting strategies and tools informed QI efforts and how cooperatives could alter their approaches to eCQMs.
Conclusion: Cooperatives ultimately generated and reported eCQMs using hybrid strategies because they determined neither EHRs alone nor centralized sources alone could operationalize eCQMs for QI. This required cooperatives to devise solutions and utilize resources that often are unavailable to typical small-to-medium-sized practices. The experiences from EvidenceNOW cooperatives provide insights into how organizations can plan for challenges and operationalize EHR-based eCQMs.
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