New tool to measure quality of patient care

November 29, 2010

A national conversation continues about the best ways to improve both the quality of medical care and to contain costs. So far, developing quality measurements has focused on primary care or highly prevalent, chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes. But what about brain disorders? To date, the number of measures that apply to neurologic care has been limited.

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), an association of more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, reached out to a group of neurologists to develop such a set of measurements. Led by Dr. Eric M. Cheng, a UCLA assistant professor of neurology, the group developed a new tool to help doctors gauge how well they are caring for people with Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that is estimated to effect nearly 1 million people in the United States. The results are published in today's issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the AAN.

"Measuring the quality of health care is a fundamental step toward improving it," said Cheng, lead author of the study and a clinician with the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. "Quality measures have been developed for conditions seen by primary care doctors for years, but not for many specialty care conditions such as brain disorders."

The AAN has developed measures for stroke and epilepsy and is working on developing similar measures for dementia, neuropathy and multiple sclerosis. The measures for Parkinson's are intended to help doctors determine how well they care for their patients. The group developed 10 separate measures to evaluate care for Parkinson's patients, including non-motor (movement) symptoms, such as depression or sleep, which are strongly associated with quality of life. Another measures the patient's current diagnosis or treatment, while another measures safety, including counseling on preventable complications, such as falls.

"Quality measures like these will be increasingly important for extending the best care possible to people with neurologic disorders like Parkinson's," said Cheng. "But none of these measures prescribe the use of specific medications, assessment tools or treatment options. It was important to leave clinicians with flexibility in how the measures can be successfully completed."
The study was funded by the AAN. Besides Cheng, five other authors were involved with the study. Cheng is supported by the VA Parkinson's Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center. He is also involved with the National Parkinson Foundation and receives research support from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Heart Association.

The UCLA Department of Neurology encompasses more than a dozen research, clinical and teaching programs. These programs cover brain mapping and neuroimaging, movement disorders, Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, neurogenetics, nerve and muscle disorders, epilepsy, neuro-oncology, neurotology, neuropsychology, headaches and migraines, neurorehabilitation, and neurovascular disorders. The department ranks first among its peers nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding. For more information, see

UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 328 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

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University of California - Los Angeles

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