Top 3 Takeaways from the 2020 CMS Quality Conference

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) held its annual Quality Conference in Baltimore, MD. More than 3,000 attendees convened to learn and talk about the present and innovative future of quality improvement on a national scale. Leaders from CMS discussed the current administration’s rapidly-evolving quality agenda.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma outlined key priorities including:

  • Establishing clear and reasonable standards and quality measures, “the rules of the road”.
  • Strengthening the government’s oversight of said standards.
  • Promoting “transparency, competition, and consumer choice” by sharing more information with the public.
  • Modernizing “quality improvement efforts for all” via advances in data analytics and technology.

Three themes clearly emerged.

The Future of FHIR is Bright

CMS is serious about harnessing FHIR to ease the reporting burden for stakeholders. They have taken concrete steps toward a FHIR-based connectivity standard over the past year.

CMS is envisioning a centralized submission solution for quality reporting. This single, FHIR-based CMS receiving system will do all the calculations and exchange data and results with the appropriate quality programs. FHIR will enable future submissions to CMS be less complex. A successful pilot connection with Cerner earlier this year gives CMS confidence in its vision.

This move means great things for medical specialty and patient registries in particular. ArborMetrix uses a FHIR-based infrastructure to promote industry standards and support interoperability. This provides flexibility, efficiency, and scalability for the future. Organizations that focus on interoperability among their source data systems and data assets will have a tremendous advantage and unparalleled information access as initiatives like the one above – and others involving EHRs – are fully in place.

The Voice of the Patient Will Be Heard

Dr. Michelle Schrieber, CMS Director for Quality Measurement and Value Based Incentives, described the addition of patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures to the “Meaningful Measures 2.0” framework and the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

Patient-reported outcome measures not only unleash the patient voice, but also minimize the burden in data collection. At a time when CMS is looking to reduce the number of MIPS measures overall, they are also looking to increase the number of PRO measures. This reflects their overall shift from process to outcomes measures that lean more heavily on the patient.

ArborMetrix believes patient data is invaluable. But using it requires the right strategy and healthcare analytics technology to be sustainable. PRO response rates are highest when used in shared decision making or when you empower the patient to view and engage with their own data.

Overall, it is clear CMS’s focus on PRO data will benefit organizations who have the technical and nuanced experience in longitudinal patient follow up.

Digital Quality Measures Will Simplify Everything

Representatives from CMS made the bold claim that by 2030, all quality measures will be fully digital. This means clinicians will not have to take time away from patient care to comply with quality programs. This is major progress.

CMS encouraged conference attendees to imagine a world where quality data is seamlessly transmitted from EHRs. This future state is exactly what is needed. Clinicians will finally be unburdened and everything they have to do will blend easily into their workflow—what they have spent years asking for.

ArborMetrix welcomes this transition, as it will amplify our medical specialty society partners’ goals to continue to go beyond MIPS when defining their strategic registry goals, measures, and programs. Our partners who have leveraged their registries to do the most impactful work, harness the collective power of their membership to embark on novel research efforts and quality initiatives that save lives. We look forward to helping medical specialty societies clarify their clinical data registry strategy and continue to improve patient outcomes.

The 2020 CMS Quality Conference was a whirlwind of data, presentations, and bold goals. The future of quality improvement that keeps patients at the forefront, embraces FHIR standards, and make QI compliance simple for clinicians, is one that I am really fully ready to embrace.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about ArborMetrix healthcare analytics technology, contact me at