Caring for patients once they are discharged means including home nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, dietitians, hired caregivers, and others in the process, Dr. Gorman says. But that doesn’t mean overburdening the wrong people with the wrong tasks. The same way no one would think to allow a social worker to prescribe medication is the same way that a hospitalist shouldn’t be the one checking up on a patient to make sure there is food in that person’s fridge.
And while the hospitalist can work in concert with others and run many things from the hospital, maybe hospital-based physicians aren’t always the best physicians for the task.
“There are certain things that only the doctor can do, of course, but there are a lot more things that somebody else can do,” Dr. Gorman says, adding, “some of the times, you’re going to need the physician, it’s going to be escalated to a medication change, but sometimes maybe you need to escalate to a dietary visit or you need to escalate to three physical therapy visits.
“The nitty-gritty of taking care of people outside of the hospital is so complex and problematic, and most of the solutions are not really medical, but you need the medical part of the dynamic. So rather [than a hospitalist running cases], it’s a super-talented social worker, nurse, or physical therapist. I don’t know, but somebody who can make sure that all of that works and it’s a process that can be leveraged.”
Whoever it is, the gravitation beyond the walls of the hospital has been tied to a growing sea change in how healthcare will compensate providers. Medicare has been migrating from fee-for-service to payments based on the totality of care for decades. The names change, of course. In the early 1980s, it was an “inpatient prospective payment system.”
Five years ago, it was accountable care organizations and value-based purchasing that SHM glommed on to as programs to be embraced as heralding the future.
Now it’s the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative (BCPI), introduced by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) back in 2011 and now compiling its first data sets for the next frontier of payments for episodic care.
BCPI was mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2009, which included a provision that the government establish a five-year pilot program by 2013 that bundled payments for inpatient care, according to the American Hospital Association. BCPI now has more than 650 participating organizations, not including thousands of physicians who then partner with those groups, over four models. The initiative covers 48 defined episodes of care, both medical and surgical, that could begin three days prior to admission and stretch 30, 60, or 90 days post-discharge.
“The reason this is so special is that it is one of the few CMS programs that allows providers to be in the driver’s seat,” says Kerry Weiner, MD, chief medical officer of acute and post-acute services at TeamHealth-IPC. “They have the opportunity to be accountable and to actually be the designers of reengineering care. The other programs that you just mentioned, like value-based purchasing, largely originate from health systems or the federal government and dictate the principles and the metrics that as a provider you’re going to be evaluated upon.
“The bundled model [BCPI] gives us the flexibility, scale, and brackets of risk that we want to accept and thereby gives us a lot more control over what physicians and physician groups can manage successfully.”