National Quality Forum president & CEO Dr. Christine Cassel voluntarily resigned her seat on the boards of a couple of high-profile healthcare industry groups as questions continue to swirl about potential conflicts of interest among the Forum’s leaders.
Cassel stepped down from the boards of health giant Kaiser Permanente and group purchasing organization Premier Inc., NQF revealed. Cassel lamented her departure from those companies, saying that her involvement was important but that ongoing inquiries were getting in the way of her work at NQF.
"Dr. Cassel decided that although serving on these boards provided her with direct knowledge of many current issues in health care, as well as practices of good governance, the issue of her board involvement had become a distraction," according to an NQF press statement.
Cassel had served on Kaiser’s board since 2002 and on Premier’s since 2008. She was named president & CEO of NQF in 2013.
"NQF’s board was strongly enthusiastic about hiring Dr. Cassel because of her unique and transformative qualities as a leader. The board thoroughly discussed her outside board affiliations and how they would be managed before hiring her," according to a statement. "The board remained supportive of Dr. Cassel continuing to serve on these boards but she has decided otherwise."
Cassel has been under fire since former NQF member Dr. Charles Denham was named in an alleged kickbacks scheme involving CareFusion (NYSE:CFN).* The U.S. Justice Dept. claimed in a Jan. 9 press release that CareFusion paid $11.6 million to induce Denham to "recommend, promote and arrange for the purchase" of its ChloraPrep wipes to healthcare providers while Denham was co-chairman of the Safe Practices Committee at NQF.
The organization reviews and endorses standardized healthcare practices and performance measures for hospitals in the interest of improving patient safety. The forum’s recommendations are "often invisible at the clinical bedside but quietly influence the care delivered to millions of patients every day," according to the NQF website.
In 2010, the NQF’s Safe Practices Committee recommended ChloraPrep for skin preparation prior to surgery, including the product in a draft release of the 2010 Safe Practices Report. After prosecutors named Denham earlier this month, the NQF sought to distance itself from Denham and ChloraPrep, telling MassDevice.com that it had pulled the ChloraPrep recommendation before issuing its final 2010 report.
The issue drew attention to other NQF leaders, especially new president & CEO Cassel, who in 2013 received about $235,000 in compensation for her service at Premier and in 2012 received about $189,000 in compensation from Kaiser, ProPublica reported.
*Correction, March 6, 2014: This article mistakenly stated that Dr. Charles Denham was once a board member for NQF. He was a committee co-chair.