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Quality Measurement In The Emergency Department: Past And Future

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As the United States seeks to improve the value of health care, there is an urgent need to develop quality measurement for emergency departments (EDs). EDs provide 130 million patient visits per year and are involved in half of all hospital admissions. Efforts to measure ED quality are in their infancy, focusing on a small set of conditions and timeliness measures, such as waiting times and length-of-stay. We review the history of ED quality measurement, identify policy levers for implementing performance measures, and propose a measurement agenda. Initial priorities include measures of effective care for serious conditions that are commonly seen in EDs, such as trauma; measures of efficient use of resources, such as high-cost imaging and hospital admission; and measures of diagnostic accuracy. More research is needed to support the development of measures of care coordination and regionalization and the episode cost of ED care. Policy makers can advance quality improvement in ED care by asking ED researchers and organizations to accelerate the development of quality measures of ED care and incorporating the measures into programs that publicly report on quality of care and incentive-based payment systems.

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