The diversity of hospitalist practice—from the variety of settings (such as inpatient acute, observation, post-discharge clinics, and post-acute-care facilities) to the differences in relationships with their facilities—is a strength of the specialty. It reflects the ability of the specialty to adapt to the unique needs of its local patients and institutions.
At the same time, it presents some unique challenges to developing strategies for identifying and assessing hospitalists. As the Medicare physician payment system moves toward value-based payment, hospitalists must report quality measures in the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) or face ever-increasing penalties.
Many hospitalists are part of multispecialty groups aligned with a range of physicians employed by the same facility, including many academic hospitalists and those in integrated healthcare systems. Frequently for hospitalists in these groups, the group reports via a group-practice reporting option that uses measures for outpatient providers, capitalizing on the performances of those outpatient primary care providers in the group and making it generally unnecessary for these hospitalists to independently worry about PQRS reporting. Due to their employment model, they might also be somewhat insulated from seeing firsthand any value-based reimbursement adjustments from Medicare.
Hospitalists commonly are employed by single-specialty groups, medium or large in number of HM-focused providers, or increasingly a mix of hospitalists, emergency physicians, and hospitalists focused on skilled nursing facility (SNF) care. Still others are in small hospitalist groups or independent practitioners of hospital medicine. For these hospitalists, successful reporting of PQRS is important; they cannot rely on broad-based primary care group reporting options, and penalties can have an immediate impact on revenue streams.
PQRS, just like its hospital counterpart, the Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) system, was designed for use in an isolated healthcare delivery silo: PQRS was meant for physicians; IQR, for hospitals. This explicit design makes the measuring of hospitalists difficult within the current value-based payment programs because while the patient-care goals of hospitalists and their hospitals overlap, hospitalists are forced to report on physician-level metrics. Following this silo logic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been removing physician-level PQRS measures that it views as redundant with facility-level IQR metrics, which has contributed to the detrimental reduction of relevant PQRS metrics for hospitalists over the years.
However, in large part due to the significant advocacy efforts of SHM around last year’s Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), CMS now has the ability to reverse this trend and include metrics from other programs, such as IQR metrics, as part of the quality or cost component of physician value-based payment. This would help to eliminate the artificial misalignment of quality goals and metrics for hospitalists and their facilities. Including hospital IQR metrics in the mandatory Medicare physician reporting programs would help to ensure hospitalists receive credit for the care they are providing for hospitalized patients and for the measures they are commonly held accountable for as part of their jobs.
As SHM advocates for hospitalists as the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) reporting program unrolls as part of MACRA, we will keep these principles in mind: reduce administrative and reporting burdens, make metrics and their resulting data as actionable and useful as possible, and account for the important work hospitalists are doing in their facilities. As we are looking ahead at the future, we encourage you to make sure you are reporting in PQRS for 2016.
For more information about 2016 PQRS reporting, visit www.hospitalmedicine.org/pqrs. TH
Joshua Lapps is SHM’s government relations manager.