Last week in Burlington City, I stood in a family health center that was crowded with state health care leaders and others applauding as Governor Murphy officially created the new Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency. As the Quality Institute, we have long called for an office that could align the health care related departments within the state government and push for transparency on both quality and costs. I was heartened to see the State Treasurer and the Commissioners of Human Services, Banking and Insurance, and Health all there speaking about the importance of transparency and the need to work across departments to make health care more affordable in our state.
A few days later, we hosted our Quality Breakfast, where we recognized New Jersey’s Top Hospitals, as designated by The Leapfrog Group. Speakers Shantanu Agrawal, President and CEO of the National Quality Forum (NQF), and Katie Burggraf Stewart, Director of Health Care Ratings at Leapfrog, outlined how transparent health care measures can drive better quality and provide information that enables consumers to seek the best and most affordable care.
Dr. Agrawal, who began his career in emergency medicine, spoke candidly about reducing the reporting burden on providers. He emphasized that as more entities collect health care measures, greater thought must be given to determine what outcomes should be measured — and which measures are most useful to a given audience. Ms. Stewart addressed the newest part of Leapfrog’s Survey: measures surrounding outpatient and ambulatory surgical centers, where an increasing number of people are seeking care.
Additionally, just yesterday, in the midst of working on all these issues, I witnessed both the value and limitations of health care transparency in New Jersey. I needed a minor medical procedure and wanted to make sure that my physician, the office, and everyone else in the process was not only in network but also in the preferred tier. I was pleased to see how easily I could find that information on my insurer’s member portal. I also found what my cost share would be as well as the cost to have the same tests and procedure done at another facility or by a different physician.
What I could not find, however, was much information about quality. Yes, I checked to ensure that my physician was board certified. But there was no information about the safety of the provider or facility, or the number of these procedures done by either the provider or the facility. These information gaps highlight the need to advance the work that we, as well as the state’s new office, can do with groups such as NQF and Leapfrog.
The governor has taken an important step toward making health care more transparent and affordable. As our state embraces health care transparency, the Quality Institute and our members must share our insights and real-world experience with the new office and its director, Shabnam Salih. We all want information and measures that will best inform payers and consumers as they make critical health care decisions.