Refinement of the HCUP quality indicators

Davies SM, Geppert J, McClellan M, McDonald KM, Romano PS, Shojania KG
Record ID 32002000869
Authors' objectives:

In 1994, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) developed the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Quality Indicators (QIs), in response to the increasing demand for information regarding the quality of health care. These measures, based on discharge data, were intended to flag potential quality problems in hospitals or regions. The purpose of this project is to refine the original set of HCUP QIs (HCUP I) and recommend a revised indicator set (HCUP II). Specifically this project aims to 1) identify quality indicators reported in the literature and in use by health care organizations, 2) evaluate both HCUP I QIs and other indicators using literature review and novel empirical methods, and 3) make recommendations for the HCUP II QI set and further research. The project deferred evaluation of indicators of complications to a separate study and report.

Authors' results and conclusions: Forty-five indicators were recommended for use in the HCUP II QI set, including volume, mortality, utilization and ambulatory care sensitive condition measures. Each indicator is appropriate for use as a "quality screen," meaning as an initial tool to identify potential quality problems. These indicators would not be expected to definitively distinguish low quality providers or areas from high quality providers or areas. The empirical performance of each indicator was evaluated; summary empirical scores ranged from 3 to 23 out of a possible 26. All indicators are recommended with specific caveats of use, identified primarily through literature review. Most volume and utilization indicators are best used as proxy measures of quality. Some indicators carry substantial selection bias due to the elective nature of some admissions and procedures. Other indicators are subject to information bias, due to the inability to track post-hospitalization mortality rates. Confounding bias, due to systematic differences in case mix, was found to be a concern for some indicators. Further, many indicators have limited evidence supporting their construct validity; others are somewhat imprecise and require smoothing techniques. Finally, some indicators may create perverse incentives for over- or under-utilization.. Specifics of the caveats of use can be found in the Executive Summary of this report. Ten indicators are recommended for use only in conjunction with other indicators. Twenty-five of the indicators are provider level indicators, meaning that they evaluate quality of care at the provider (in this case, hospital) level. These indicators include seven procedure volume indicators (AAA repair, carotid endarterectomy, CABG, esophageal resection, pancreatic resection, pediatric heart surgery, and PTCA), five procedure utilization indicators (Cesarean section rate, incidental appendectomy rate, bi-lateral heart catheterization rate, VBAC rate, and laparoscopic cholecystectomy rate), six in-hospital medical mortality indicators (AMI, CHF, GI hemorrhage, hip fracture, pneumonia and stroke), and seven in-hospital provider mortality indicators (AAA repair, CABG, craniotomy, esophageal resection, hip replacement, pancreatic resection, and pediatric heart surgery). Twenty of the recommended indicators are area-level indicators, meaning that they have population denominators and likely measure quality of the health care system in an area. These indicators include four procedure utilization indicators (CABG, hysterectomy, laminectomy, and PTCA), and sixteen ambulatory care sensitive condition indicators (dehydration, bacterial pneumonia, urinary tract infection, perforated appendix, angina, asthma, COPD, CHF, diabetes short term complications, uncontrolled diabetes, diabetes long term complications, lower extremity amputation in diabetics, hypertension, low birth weight, pediatric asthma and pediatric gastroenteritis).
Authors' recommendations: This project identified 45 indicators that are promising for use as quality screens, demonstrating through literature review and empirical analyses that useful information regarding quality of health care can be gleaned from routinely collected administrative data. However, these indicators have important limitations and could benefit from further research. Techniques such as risk adjustment and multivariate smoothing are currently available to reduce the impact of some of these limitations, but other limitations remain. There are two major recommendations for further action and research - (1) the improvement of HCUP data and subsequently the HCUP QIs to address some of the noted limitations, and (2) further research into quality measurement and the reality of these limitations. The HCUP QIs could benefit from the inclusion of additional data, some of which is now routinely available in some states. Important additions to data include hospital outpatient; emergency room and ambulatory surgery data; linkages to vital statistics such as death records to track post-hospitalization deaths for mortality indicators or birth records for better obstetric risk adjustment; and additional clinical data to improve the risk adjustment available. In addition, research into quality measurement should continue. The relationships underlying the validity of volume measures and utilization measures needs to be revisited periodically to assure validity. Further, research surrounding the construct validity of indicators is essential. Finally, further research is needed regarding risk adjustment of indicators, and how alternative risk adjustment methods affect indicators.
Authors' methods: Systematic review, empirical evaluation
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2001
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: United States
MeSH Terms
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care
Organisation Name: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Contact Address: Center for Outcomes and Evidence Technology Assessment Program, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA. Tel: +1 301 427 1610; Fax: +1 301 427 1639;
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Copyright: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.