When It Comes to Assessing the Value of the PCMH Model of Care, the Devil Really Is In the Details | Mark Hagland | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

When It Comes to Assessing the Value of the PCMH Model of Care, the Devil Really Is In the Details

July 8, 2017
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A recent study of the PCMH model in FQHCs requires close parsing for true enlightenment

I read with great interest an analysis of the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) phenomenon, as developed within the context of care management in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). The article, entitled “Implementation of Medical Homes in Federally Qualified Health Centers,” appeared in the June 21, 2017 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, and was authored by a team of 17 health care policy researchers, led by Justin W. Timbie, Ph.D. The analysis was an extremely complex and nuanced one, and difficult to summarize, but it showed that, when it comes to analyzing the extent to which the implementation of the patient-centered medical home model will work in a clinic setting depends on a host of factors; and the devil is absolutely in the details in terms of understanding the myriad elements that can positively or negatively impact patient outcomes and utilization rates for various services. In other words, it’s all very complicated.

As Dr. Timbie and his 16 fellow researchers noted at the outset of their article, “A strong primary care delivery system is critical to improving population health and controlling health care spending. The use of the patient-centered medical home—a care-delivery model that emphasizes enhanced access along with comprehensive and coordinated primary care—has spread widely during the past decade. Despite early positive evidence from high-performing health systems, recent regional and multi-payer initiatives have shown a lower-than-expected benefit from medical homes, although several initiatives are still in progress.”

Meanwhile, the researchers report, “Federally qualified health centers, a critical source of primary care for vulnerable populations, are increasingly adopting medical-home models. Medical-home recognition is associated with improved prevention and chronic disease management in such health centers,” they note, “but the effects on patients’ outcomes are not yet known. Although many federally qualified health centers have historically provided patient-centered, team-based care, the implementation of other medical-home components, such as expanding access to care after hours and developing data-analytic capabilities, may present substantial challenges in health centers that have limited financial resources or high staff turnover. Moreover, nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries who receive care at such health centers are dually eligible for Medicaid, have substantial social service needs, or have limited English proficiency or health literacy.”

In this case, the researchers focused on the Federally Qualified Health Center Advanced Primary Care Practice Demonstration, a three-year demonstration project executed between November 2011 and November 2014, and one whose goal was to “strengthen the delivery of primary care in federally qualified health centers conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in partnership with the Health Resources and Services Administration,” through the testing of support for the implementation of a medical-home model in a nationwide sample of 503 sites. “The purpose of the demonstration,” the authors noted, “was to provide technical and financial assistance to help sites achieve the highest level of Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition (level 3) by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and, through such recognition, to improve the quality of care and health care experiences for Medicare beneficiaries while reducing expenditures.”

Well, of course, determining just how valuable it was for the demonstration project’s leaders to accelerate the PCMH model inside FQHCs, was and is a tricky proposition. Would adoption of the PCMH model alone dramatically improve outcomes and utilization? That’s where this narrative gets exceedingly complicated. To begin with, let’s look at which types of FQHCs were compared. The researchers compared FQHCs that had been approved to participate in the demonstration project, with some that had not been approved. Approval was based on volume of Medicare beneficiaries (at least 200 per site), with the demonstration project’s leaders eliminating those FQHCs that served only special populations, such as homeless individuals, and not Medicare-Medicaid dual-eligibles (the types of Medicare patients seen in FQHCs).

Meanwhile, what types of outcomes were analyzed? The authors write that “We used five process-quality measures that are part of the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set [HEDIS measures], including a four-measure composite for patients with diabetes (annual testing of glycated hemoglobin and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, eye examinations, and nephropathy testing) and an annual lipid test for patients with ischemic vascular disease. Measures of Medicare expenditures included costs associated with inpatient services, with Medicare Part B (including physician and supplier claims), and with all Medicare services (including inpatient, Part B, outpatient, skilled nursing, home health, durable medical equipment, and hospice).” And the researchers compared all those outcomes and measures across a span of 19 months, based on both beneficiary surveys (16,000 were completed) and interviews with leaders at 20 demonstration-site FQHCs and 10 non-demonstration-participant comparison sites.

Among the FQHCs participating in both the demonstration project and this study, no sites had achieved level-3 PCMH recognition (which recently was eliminated; going forward, there will be only one level of PCMH recognition now) in November 2011, before the demonstration began, whereas 70 percent had achieved level-3 recognition by 2014. Meanwhile, 11 percent of the comparison sites had achieved level-3 recognition by November 2014.

Now, here’s the really interesting stuff: while the demonstration sites outperformed the comparison sites on several process measures, at the same time, beneficiaries at demonstration sites had increased emergency department (ED) visits over time, whereas ED visits among beneficiaries at comparison sites remained flat during that same time period. The researchers drilled down into the data and came up with some conclusions about that counter-intuitive research result. First, they noted that, “Despite a relative increase in the number of primary care visits, beneficiaries at demonstration sites had increased rates of visits to emergency departments over time, whereas the rates in comparison sites remained unchanged, which resulted in a net increase of 30.3 visits per 1000 beneficiaries per year at demonstration sites. The utilization of inpatient services by beneficiaries increased in the two groups, but the increase was larger in demonstration sites (5.7 additional admissions per 1000 beneficiaries per year),” they discovered. “Several factors may explain the lack of improvements at demonstration sites across a wide array of quality measures and reductions in utilization and expenditures,” they stated.

First, the amount of PCMH-related funding and technical assistance unrelated to the demonstration project was essentially similar between the demonstration and comparison sites. Second, the supplementary care management payments provided to the FQHC demonstration sites was quite small--$6 per patient per month—not enough to lead to wholesale operational or care management changes. “Third,” as they pointed out, “most demonstration sites required the entire 3-year period to achieve level 3 medical-home recognition, with a majority doing so in the final quarter of the demonstration. The full effect of medical-home–related changes on utilization, expenditures, and beneficiary experiences might be observed only with the use of an extended measurement period.”

Meanwhile, they wrote that, “Although the reasons for increased rates of emergency department visits in demonstration sites remain unclear, several site leaders mentioned guiding their patients to seek care at emergency departments when their clinics were unable to provide timely technical or specialty services.37 Thus, these increases may reflect the increased commitment of staff members at demonstration sites to encourage care-seeking behavior while leveraging their improved care-coordination systems with emergency departments. These same factors could also account for higher rates of inpatient admissions and the lack of a reduction in Medicare expenditures, especially for patients at federally qualified health centers, who often report an inconsistent history of access to medical care and a pattern of presenting late in the course of an illness.”

In other words, there are good explanations for these ostensibly counter-intuitive findings.

And what do all these detailed findings say about where this is all headed? They say a lot. To begin with, as care management and population health management become more broadly and deeply embedded in the core operations of all types of health clinics, and particularly as more funding goes to creating the kinds of patient-clinic staff interactions needed in order to get patients fully on board as members of their own care management teams, some of these kinds of statistics are bound to shift. Of course, that shift will only take place as funds are made available to be channeled into such processes, on patients’ behalf. Federal healthcare officials’ simply pushing more FQHCs in particular, to adopt the PCMH model, will not do the job.

Or, as the authors put it, “The fact that patients in demonstration sites had better access to and utilization of primary care services than did those in comparison sites provides some empirical evidence to support the role of medical-home transformation among federally qualified health centers. Despite these findings, demonstration sites did not achieve significant relative reductions in key utilization and expenditure measures during a 3-year period, and the demonstration was not expanded. Any future tests of medical-home interventions in federally qualified health centers should build on these results by considering alternative designs, with attention to the magnitude of financial assistance and the duration of the evaluation, to better understand how to facilitate practice transformation and ensure that these changes translate into improved outcomes for vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries.”

In other words, parallel gains in both patient outcomes improvement and patient utilization reduction are quite possible, but  it will take adequate funding from the federal government (and where appropriate, state governments) to universalize the patient-centered medical home model across all, or nearly all, FQHCs; and it will also take operational change and organizational cultural change, for those gains to move forward in parallel.

In the meantime, I salute Dr. Timbie and his 16 fellow researchers for doing such an intensive and extensive study as this one, and for bringing forward some very complex, nuanced conclusions, based on very intelligent analysis of data that can be inherently challenging to analyze and understand. Moving forward, studies like these will continue to enlighten the industry and show the way, as we inch forward towards a stronger and more innovative healthcare delivery system.

 

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On Staten Island, a Highly Innovative Program That's Redefining What’s Possible Under Medicaid

September 17, 2018
by Mark Hagland
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Healthcare leaders on Staten Island have been achieving exciting success in care management and population health management in their community’s Medicaid and uninsured populations

Even as one hears constant complaints and concerns about the challenges facing healthcare leaders who are attempting to help shift the U.S. healthcare system from volume to value, more and more truly encouraging stories are emerging about pioneering organizations that absolutely are moving the needle, in the present moment. One of those encouraging stories absolutely revolves around the Staten Island Performing Provider System (SI PPS), a unique organization whose leaders describe it as a “Medicaid redesign program implementation enterprise.” Under the leadership of Joseph Conte, Ph.D., CPHQ, its executive director, SIPPS has been forging a path forward around robust population health for Medicaid recipients on Staten Island, the New York City borough that is the by far the smallest in population (479,000, compared to Brooklyn, at 2.6 million in population) yet third-largest in land mass, among the city’s five boroughs.

The Staten Island Performing Provider System has been participating very successfully in the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program under the aegis of the federal government. What is involved in New York State’s DSRIP? As NYSDRIP’s website notes, “DSRIP is the main mechanism by which New York State will implement the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Waiver Amendment. DSRIP´s purpose is to fundamentally restructure the health care delivery system by reinvesting in the Medicaid program, with the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by 25 percent over five years. Up to $6.42 billion dollars are allocated to this program with payouts based upon achieving predefined results in system transformation, clinical management and population health.” The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved New York State’s Medicaid waiver requested in the amount of $8 billion over five years, in April 2014.

And SI PPS manages the care of 130,000 Medicaid recipients on Staten Island, in addition to managing the care of 50,000 uninsured Staten Islanders.

According to SIPPS leaders, “Staten Island Performing Provider System (SI PPS) is an alliance of clinical and social service providers focused on improving the quality of care and overall health for Staten Island’s Medicaid and uninsured populations, which include more than 180,000 Staten Island residents. We are co-led by Staten Island University Hospital and Richmond University Medical Center. Our network of over 70 partners includes skilled nursing facilities, behavioral health providers, home health care agencies and a wide range of community-based hospitals, clinical facilities, treatment centers, social service and community organizations, primary care physicians and medical practices across the island. SI PPS is expected to bring more than $200 million to Staten Island over 5 years if successful in transforming our care delivery system. Our mission is to engage partners and stakeholders in the planning and implementation of DSRIP as we move towards a value-based payment model for Medicaid in New York State.”

Among the goals that SI PPS leaders have set for themselves:

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> Develop an infrastructure that lays the foundation for delivery system reform by transforming the Staten Island community through investment in technology, tools, and human resources that will strengthen the ability of providers to better serve our community

> Improve health literacy and share cultural competency knowledge

> Expand access to the appropriate level of care for all patients, including reducing barriers to care

> Expand outpatient and community services including home care, ambulatory detox, behavioral health/substance abuse, and primary care to reduce avoidable hospital/emergency department use on Staten Island

> Improve coordination of care and develop an integrated network

> Improve care management and disease management for high-risk patients, including patients with chronic conditions and behavioral health diagnosis

> Improve population health by addressing social determinants of health

> Integrate technology to allow for the secure exchange of health information across the PPS

> Reduce the per person cost for providing care

> Engage the uninsured, and underutilizing/low utilizing Medicaid patients and connect them to primary care and social services

> Implement innovative and evidence-based care models throughout the care continuum

> Implement training programs and learning collaborations between PPS partners that allow for the sharing of best practices

SI PPS leaders state that “These goals are being reached by implementing 11 DSRIP Projects, identified by a Community Needs Assessment, to address primary care, mental health, substance abuse, chronic disease, long term care, social determinants of health, and population heath.”

SI PPS leaders add that “We leverage a seamless platform that gathers data from multiple sources -- claims data, core reports, department of health information and the like -- and that data is inserted directly into the electronic data warehouse. With geo-mapping, we can identify areas that are lacking in key services. In creating maps of the population, we can filter in on specific conditions, and if we hover over a specific area within a specific map, we can see three years of claims data. We can figure out utilization trends, including hospitalization, medications, etc. We can also filter by demographics, types of chronic illness, etc.” Among the data sources they are make use of include direct data feeds from partners; lead providers’ clinical data; other partners’ clinical and billing data; data from care management partners; and public data; among other sources.

In addition, the SI PPS leaders have plunged into behavioral healthcare management. They note that they are pursuing “a population-health and community wide effort that aims to build capacity across systems by leveraging and developing partnerships to provide a quality integrated health care system, effective, high quality, person-centered care that supports improved health outcomes and optimal physical and emotional well-being. BHIP priorities focus on increasing and sustaining mental health/SUD provider service capacities, assisting community members to navigate behavioral health services, providing support to individuals and providers through education and technical assistance, addressing co-morbidities and co-occurring disorders, and reducing stigma and raising awareness about behavioral health wellness.” Among the numerous individual programs encompassed by the Behavioral Health Infrastructure Program (BHIP) are programs to expand the capacity of professionally certified peer workers in addiction and mental health, to help tackle the substance abuse program; the engagement of patients in the Emergency Department with substance use issues by clinicians and certified Peers to expedite linkages to behavioral health providers and reduce preventable ED visits; an innovative pre-arraignment diversion program designed to redirect low-level drug offenders to community-based health services instead of jail and prosecution; and numerous other programs.

Recently, Dr. Conte spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding the progress being made at SI PPS, and the implications of his team’s work for transformation across the U.S. healthcare system. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Can you explain the basic funding mechanism or model that is supporting your organization?

The New York State Department of Health negotiated a waiver with CMS, and received $7.2 billion over five years to fund the program. About 50 percent of that was guaranteed for pay-for-reporting and program implementation, and 50 percent was set up as pay for performance, so it is very much a pay for performance program. There are 6 million people on Medicaid, and the state spends $65 billion a year, and the federal government pays for half of that; that’s why it’s very much in their interest to fund population health; it pays dividends to everyone.

To take care of the entire Medicaid population on Staten Island?

It’s interesting. We do not pay claims or intervene on behalf of providers, with managed care companies. Our sole purpose is to create innovation and reach population health milestones with providers in the community. So the hospitals, nursing homes, FQHCs, physicians, continue in their payment systems. We exist solely to create innovation and to incent innovation. It’s very much a pay for performance program.

Tell me about some of the main programs that you and your colleagues have been involved in, around this work?

The main initiatives relate to creating integrative care models where we bring in behavioral health providers to work with medical providers and medical providers who work in behavioral health organizations, so people don’t have to shuttle around to access care. We’ve done a great deal in the prevention of avoidable use of EDs for medical and behavioral care; that’s down over 60 percent in the past three years. And a lot of that has to do with looking at data form multiple sources and identifying where initiatives should be implemented. So we have a very big focus on asthma and a very big focus on diabetes. And a lot of the work involves engaging patients with peer educators who suffer from these conditions themselves.

One of the biggest innovations has been doing this with people who have alcohol and substance abuse disorders. We have peers in the EDs 24/7; and the number of people who have engaged in treatment services has tripled in the past few years. We’ve paid the salaries for these individuals, we’ve paid their training, have paid them to go get certified; and as they’ve become certified, they’ve become hired by the organizations, because their services are actually billable. So it helps the individual, helps the patient care organizations, helps the community. And it all comes out of high-level data analytics, doing hot-spotting, geo-mapping, bringing in social determinant of health factors, looking at housing, crime statistics, poverty, graduation lists, things like that. So we’ve done things very fundamental to services, to healthcare services, but in a very smart way. The workforce transformation is also very important; we spend a lot of time and training preparing people for new roles.

What have your biggest lessons been learned so far?

I would say it is that the kind of collaboration that it takes to create transformation is something that people really want to do; but they need organizations like ours that can bring these high-level analytics and resources together. And that includes training to give people new education; as well as providing to organizations high-level opportunities to identify patients most in need. You know, you can hunt for ducks with a shotgun, but it’s not a good idea when you’re trying to conserve ammunition, right? So we’ve helped people put a fine aim on things that need to be worked on, and the community coalitions are very powerful; you can’t go it alone, so working with local governmental units is very important. Also, bringing in information form as many sources of information as possible essential. We bring in ambulance data, social determinants of health data, school data, community data; all are essential.

Have you done geo-mapping or hot-spotting? How did you figure out how to obtain those various types of data?

When we started up, we were a complete start-up; so we didn’t have any legacy systems. So we hired very bright IT people and analysts, and brought the right tools to bear so that we could really be focused on how the resources were applied; that was our core investment.

What advice would you offer the senior healthcare IT leaders in patient care organizations, including the CIOs, CMIOs, CQOs, chief data officers, etc., in terms of what they should think about around all of this?

I would tell them that turning data into business intelligence is critical, and that’s true with respect to everybody. For the medical people, it’s medical business intelligence; for the finance people, it’s financial business intelligence. Don’t get overwhelmed with data; use it to create good information for clinical and business practices, and that will allow you allow you to be successful.

What will happen in the next couple of years?

There are about 13 states that have Medicaid redesign waivers in place now; CA and TX have received extensions, and we’re hoping for an extension. We’re also looking for other opportunities to extend our work; we’ve set up an ACO. We’ve set up a form of consultancy as well.

Where do you hope to go in terms of accomplishments in the next few years?

The important thing is for us to do things that are sustainable in the community whether we continue on or not, and that’s a lot of the work we have done—it is to grow capacity in organizations in the community. And that’s why the workforce work is so important. When people have new skills and training and ability to bring change into their organizations, these certainly are sustainability factors that are important.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I would say one thing that we’re spending much more time on now, is continuing to try to work in the behavioral health space, because especially in the Medicaid population, any number of people have co-occurring conditions—they have medical and behavioral problems. And these are the patients with the most problems and who need the most services. So giving them access to more services is important, but also being able to be more predictive about when they’ll need those services, so we can be smarter about it; that is really important.

 

 

 

 


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In Eastern North Carolina, an MD-Run ACO Shows its Success

September 10, 2018
by Mark Hagland
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Stephen Nuckolls, CEO of the New Bern, North Carolina-based Coastal Carolina Quality Care, shares his perspectives on why some physician-led ACOs are making huge breakthroughs on quality and cost

It’s not just in the well-known advanced managed care markets that the accountable care phenomenon is making progress these days; indeed, there are accountable care organizations (ACOs) whose leaders are pressing ahead, all across the U.S. Some leaders are operating ACOs in collaboration with private health insurers; a significant number are participating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in one of its several ACO programs.

One organization that has been making exciting strides forward in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), the largest of the Medicare ACO programs, is Coastal Carolina Quality Care, an ACO based in New Bern, North Carolina, a community of about 30,000 people located about two hours east of Raleigh, that state’s capital, and an hour west of the Atlantic coast.  Coastal Carolina Quality Care is sponsored by Coastal Carolina Health Care, P.A., a multispecialty group practice located in New Bern, and which provides care to its community at 16 locations, involving 43 physicians and 20 allied healthcare professionals. Coastal Carolina Quality Care was created in April 2012 and chartered as one of the first 27 MSSP ACOs; it currently has 11,500 Medicare enrollees attributed to it.

Recently, Stephen Nuckolls, Coastal Carolina Quality Care’s CEO, spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding his organization’s ongoing journey into and through value-based healthcare delivery and payment. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Your organization has now been participating in the MSSP program for six years, correct?

Yes, that’s correct. We are ending our second contract cycle in December. We will renew, under the new proposed Pathways to Success regulations; there will be a six-month period where we’ll stay in our current track, but starting July 1 of next year, we’re planning to enter their Enhanced Track, the equivalent of their Track 3 under the current regulations. That includes downside risk. We’ve been in Track 1 Plus; we came into that starting January 1 of this year.

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In other words, you’re already taking downside risk?

Correct; it’s a limited form of downside risk based on the revenue standard. Eight percent of our Medicare fee-for-service revenue, is the maximum we’d have to pay back. The maximum gain would be 10 percent of benchmark, which for us would be $12 million.

What’s your sense of how your organization is doing in the program this year?

Well, for 2016, we achieved a little over 4 percent savings, and a little over 6 percent savings for 2017; and through the second quarter of this year, we were a little over 8 percent savings—so far.

That’s really great. What do you see as the secret of your success so far?

It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing. There are several things. Number one, it takes time for some of these strategies, such as population health, to pay off. Another thing that’s going on is that our care management program, I give credit for keeping our costs low and getting things in place. And in addition, we really made a lot of strides in our first contract cycle, specific to our market. All of our annual wellness visits and preventive care, we made our marks there and that positioned us well in our second contract cycle. And it just takes time, when you focus on the quality of care, for… when a greater percentage of your patients have their blood pressure under control, you’ll have fewer adverse events. And when you work to lower a1cs, that will avert events over time. And annual wellness visits, vaccinations, screening services—it costs money for screenings; and once you get things set up, that’s then in place. And care management services—when you go into your second contract cycle, you have some of those costs worked into your contract cycle the second time; so it takes time to achieve shared savings, and to get the staff to focus on the sickest population.

With regard to the electronic health record and data analytics, in the context of population health work, what learnings have you and your colleagues achieved so far?

Data analytics are key with this. We have a dashboard right in our Allscripts EHR. We’ve really used that dashboard, and we’ve used that module to track things; we’ve done things around opioid abuse disorder, and tracking things. Most people don’t associate that crisis with the Medicare population, but there is a good number of people on Medicare for disability. And we’ve really used our EHR to help track prescriptions, and to pinpoint patients to make sure they’re getting the right care and support. And with regard to point-of-care dashboards, we’ve just found those to be incredibly helpful. And focusing on tracking outcomes, at the individual physician level; doctors are competitive, so that helps. And we’ve used Allscripts’ reporting package that allows things to print out well and that works well in meetings, and that helps get the point across about how these numbers relate to the day-to-day practice aspects. That’s what drew us to the program: if you give good care to the patients and it keeps them healthier, it’s good for the practice’s bottom line.

What have been the most difficult challenges in the journey so far?

We’ve had many. One is around physician engagement. We did not achieve savings during our first contact cycle, and that was disappointing, because we felt we were doing a good job. So, maintaining engagement, and making sure we were making good investments in the program. Now, we have reached the point where we’re financially successful, and our projections are looking good for this next contract cycle. Some of it had to do with the vagaries and complexities of establishing this new benchmark. They’ve fixed a lot of those things.

Another challenge is around care management, just getting up to speed on chronic care management, and how to bill for that and set up that program, so it can show itself as a break-even center in a fee-for-service world, cost-justifying that, and training and educating, that was a real hurdle, but I’m proud of that now. It’s a little more than care management, some would call it practice transformation or team-based health. But there’s a lot about how to pay for setting all that up.

Many ACO leaders have commented on what’s popularly known as the “one foot in the boat, one on the shore” problem of having to manage both fee-for-service and value-based payment realities at the same time. Your thoughts?

We’re actually fairly fortunate in that we’re what Medicare considers a low-revenue ACO. Our doctors comprise a low percentage of the overall dollars. When we see patients and are keeping them healthier, we’re at least breaking even.

So you have low overhead, and that keeps you in a good position, in that context?

Correct. We do have our own processes, where we give certain kinds of injections, for example. Now that we’re looking at a 75-percent shared savings track—when you move from 50 percent to 75 percent, you get past what you’d call incremental revenue. You can really start to look at some of the internal costs. If you’re in a 50-percent shared-savings world, and let’s say we get paid $100 for an office visit; if you don’t do that office visit, you increase your shared savings by $50; but you have to look at incremental costs. For example, a shot of Porlea that costs $600. The point is that when you get to 75-percent savings, it makes the math a bit different in terms of your incremental costs of providing a service. You get closer to saying, if I can provide this drug or see the patient, it makes more sense to move to virtual visits or not always bringing the patient in for an in-person visit—when it’s someone we’ve seen three or four times recently and know the patient well—the doctor may handle it over the phone, for example. It changes the calculus as we go forward.

What should CIOs, CMIOs, and other senior healthcare IT leaders be thinking about, based on all of this?

As far as population health management and trying to get the numbers together, make it simple for the physicians to use; make sure they have enough resources at the point of care to use; and make sure you’ve answered the question of what’s in it for them to use it. So a CIO might buy a big, fancy system, and it’s wonderful, but the doctors may not use it unless they know what’s in it for them. Unless there’s an incentive for them to use it, the human behavior is, I’ll just generate as many RVUs as I can, as I’ve always done, and this slows me down. So I’d tell a CIO or CMIO to set up a system that’s simple, that encourages the physicians to use it, and provides incentives to use it. In some cases, we had to hire scribes.

And what has your experience with scribes been like?

It depends. In some practices, we’ve crashed and burned, and then some practices couldn’t live without them. It depends on the number of patients the doctor has, and their comfort level for having someone in the room. Our doctors with larger patient panels and not so particular about how their notes looked, FPs, they’ve done well with scribes; with general internists with smaller panels, they’ve had less success because there’s not so much of a need for it.

What do the next two years look like for you and your group?

I’d like to talk about Pathways For Success and this new rule that comes out: while it doesn’t change our decision-making too much, I think that the forcing of more groups into downside risk earlier, is a mistake, I don’t think it will save the treasury that much. There will be a study released next week by NAACOS [the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of ACOs] that will show significantly greater savings than what Medicare has shown to date. This study uses a methodology that MedPAC and the Innovation Center have used—they look at a matched cohort—and it will show almost twice as much savings in the MSSP than has previously been shown. It also speaks to the policy point—organizations are truly saving the government money, even if it doesn’t immediately show on paper. The evidence doesn’t support the idea that ACOs should be kicked out because they have a bad benchmark. The true savings to the Medicare Trust Fund will then be less. And that’s what they need to focus on, achieving true savings to the government.

And where will this appear?

I think it’s going to come out in Health Affairs. I’m familiar with it through NAACOS, which helped fund it.

 


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