A computerized system for reviewing medical records from physicians' offices.

D. W. Garnick, A. G. Lawthers, R. H. Palmer, S. J. Moentmann, J. Fowles, J. P. Weiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Review of clinical performance in office-based care is increasing in importance as more medical care shifts to outpatient settings. Decisions made in primary care settings can save lives and limit disability through prevention and early intervention in disease. Information is needed to assess quality of care by answering such questions as whether drugs are prescribed and monitored appropriately, follow-up on serious health threats is carried out promptly, or procedures are performed for appropriate indications. Moreover, data from medical records are essential to provide important clinical information not found in the more widely used administrative data sets. Managed care organizations, too, face the need to respond to requests for objective information about the quality of primary care that they provide. Those organizations now planning assessments of primary care will need to consider the cost of obtaining information from medical record review. METHODS: The DEMPAQ Record Review System (DRRS) is a tool for peer review organizations (PROs) to use to review ambulatory care given to Medicare beneficiaries in physicians' offices. The system is described in terms of functions (activities commonly performed in the course of an office visit, such as drug prescribing), indicators (summary measures of quality for each key function of clinical care), and clinical items (for example, specific drugs or tests for each function and indicator)--a total of 263 indicators in all. A framework is provided for measuring the operational costs of a review system based on medical records. RESULTS: The costs directly associated with a fully operational review system were less than $48 per case in Iowa and Alabama and $72 per case in Maryland. On average, reviewers spent about an hour per case signed on to DRRS; average review times declined over time with practice. About half the cost of the review process is accounted for by administrative costs. Therefore, once the effort has been made to obtain records, the additional cost of abstracting more data items is relatively low. Since samples of 300-500 records suffice to measure average performance for a region or state, costs per region/state approximate $15,000 to $25,000 per measurement cycle for assessment of a wide array of clinical areas. SUMMARY: The cost of collecting information on quality of care from medical records using the review system falls within current budgets for PRO review. However, organizations planning to implement a quality improvement campaign should also consider the costs of analyzing the data, reporting information to physicians, and continuing to monitor changes in performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-694
Number of pages16
JournalThe Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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