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The Need for Performance Measures on Testing for Latent Tuberculosis Infection in Primary Care

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Background: The millions of people living in the United States with latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) represent a reservoir of potentially active tuberculosis (TB) disease. When LTBI is left to activate, the consequences may include intense suffering, permanent disability, and high economic costs for patients, their caretakers, and society at large as TB spreads. The introduction of performance measures would improve accountability for quality of care and to reduce disparities, especially if the measures are group-targeted.

Performance Measures Proposal: One National Quality Forum-endorsed measure (#0408) calculates the rate of TB screening in persons with HIV. Using the measure as a model, a set of performance measures is proposed. Denominators will include all persons in a given high-risk category, and numerators will include those persons from the denominators with LTBI test results. National guidelines informed appropriate exclusions.

Implementation Challenges and Solutions: Challenges to implementation include lack of TB knowledge among primary care providers, potential for overwhelming already burdened schedules, and stigma associated with TB. However, the new measures, along with publication of educational resources, would raise clinicians' awareness. Short checklists and electronic supports would minimize time pressures. The routinization of screening would help reduce stigma. Finally, new federal funding and political will for electronic health records would facilitate data collection and impact assessment.

Conclusions: TB sits at the crossroads of health and economic inequity and is a huge public health problem. The proposed performance measures will address a neglected secondary prevention opportunity and will be consistent with national priorities and health reform.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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