The Growing Standardization of Health Outcomes Metrics

By Elisabeth HanssonBrett SpencerJennifer ClawsonHeino MeerkattStefan Larsson, and James Kent

This article is part of a series on value based hospitals.

As more and more health care providers around the world focus on delivering high-quality care, the movement to standardize outcomes metrics is growing. A case in point is the work of the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring together disease registry leaders, patient group representatives, and other experts to define and publish globally harmonized sets of outcomes metrics. ICHOM was founded in 2012 by The Boston Consulting Group, Michael Porter’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

In November 2013, ICHOM published its first set of standardized metrics and risk adjustment variables for four major conditions: coronary-artery disease, localized prostate cancer, low-back pain, and cataracts. (See Exhibit 1.) Since then, nearly 200 hospitals worldwide have expressed an interest in using ICHOM’s metrics in their internal outcomes tracking. In 2014, ICHOM plans to develop standardized outcomes measures for an additional 8 conditions; by 2017, it intends to cover more than 50 conditions, representing more than 50 percent of the disease burden in industrialized countries.

Hospital executives who have been involved in ICHOM’s early efforts see the initiative as key for both improving quality and managing costs. “Outcomes measurement is essential for quality improvement,” said  Dr. Tom Rosenthal, chief medical officer at the UCLA Medical System in Los Angeles. “It’s the duty of every professional in medicine to be actively engaged in improving the quality of their care.” And according to  Dr. Jack Lewin, president and CEO of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation and former CEO of the American College of Cardiology, “We’ve got to measure to manage health care, and we’ve got to measure to manage health care costs as well as quality. This is an important area of focus, and I’m glad to see it happen on an international basis.”