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Quality measures “risk misinterpretation”, says King’s Fund

25 January 2010

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Greater use of quality measures in the NHS has potential for improving the quality of care, but care must be taken to avoid misleading patients, distorting priorities and damaging staff morale, healthcare think tank The King’s Fund has warned.

In a discussion paper, Getting the measure of quality, the King’s Fund suggests that the NHS should widen the scope of quality measurement to include measures of productivity, efficiency and inequality, as well as those that capture quality across patient pathways.

Veena Raleigh, lead author and senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: “While openness and transparency are desirable, the increase in published information measuring the quality of care means it is imperative that adequate consideration is given to the selection, presentation and interpretation of complex data.

“Where such measures are used as performance indicators they must be interpreted with care in order to avoid unintended consequences, such as gaming, risk-aversion or distortion of clinical priorities.

“It is also important to remember that meeting performance indicators is not necessarily the same as good care for the individual patient.”

King’s Fund