Policy Changes Hospitalists May See in 2016


The year 2015 brought the repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) and new rules for advanced care planning reimbursement. It saw hospitalists take the lead on improving the two-midnight rule and respond to a global infectious disease scare.



Looking ahead, 2016 promises to be another year of momentous change in healthcare. And, it’s a presidential election year. Chair of SHM’s Public Policy Committee Ron Greeno, MD, MHM, a founding member of SHM, says hospitalists are not running away from these changes. In fact, he says, hospitalists are central to the success of any healthcare system redesign.

The Hospitalist caught up with Dr. Greeno, chief strategy officer at North Hollywood, Calif.-based IPC Healthcare, to ask him about what he sees for the year ahead in policy.

Question: What are the biggest changes in store for 2016 that stand to impact hospitalists?

Answer: Much of it is just a magnification of the things that most hospitalists are already feeling or sensing. Clearly, there is a very solid movement toward alternative payment methodologies. BPCI (the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative) has been embraced by hospitalists and other physicians all over the country at a scale that has surprised everybody.

There is also more consolidation in the healthcare industry as a whole. Hospital organizations are getting bigger, and we’re seeing consolidation of hospitalist groups. We will see cross-integration in the healthcare system that occurs at a rapid pace: hospitals buying physician groups, health systems and providers starting health plans, health plans acquiring hospital systems. In the not-too-distant future, we are all going to be in the population health business. This is a complete realignment of the healthcare system, and we haven’t seen the half of it yet. We have to be prepared to do it all, or a very big piece of it. The good news is, we are an absolute necessity for success in the future.

Q: It’s a presidential election year. How much weight should physicians put on claims made by candidates?

A: I encourage people to be politically engaged, but I don’t think the majority of what’s happening in healthcare is being driven by politics. It’s being driven by dispassionate economic forces that aren’t going to go away, no matter who is president. We have to figure out how to care for our population more cost-effectively. The ACA (Affordable Care Act) has driven a lot of the political environment in D.C. since its passage, including a big divide between the two parties, but it’s about three things: insurance reform, expanded access, and, particularly, delivery system reform. That’s the part we really care about and can influence the most, I think. Both parties feel like the delivery system needs to be reformed. I don’t think the election will have a major impact on hospitalists and what we do.

The ACA created an environment where things moved faster, created the (CMS) Innovation Center that drives alternative payment methodologies. It created a burning platform for things that already needed to happen.

Q: Is there anything new for meaningful use/EHR in 2016?

A: There are implications of meaningful use for hospitalists. Last year was the first that meaningful use penalties for physician groups came into effect. The way it was written, there was an exception to meaningful use requirements for hospital-based physicians, but a majority of SHM’s membership does not qualify for exemption and are subject to penalties. It’s not small: $2,500 to $5,000 per doctor. The Public Policy Committee at SHM has been working in Washington the last couple of years. We were able to get a one-year exemption, and now they’ve given us a second year, but we can only do five years according to law, and we have to apply every year. We have applied to CMS for a specialty code for hospitalists, and if that gets approved, it will be used to identify who is a hospitalist and who is not. If we submit under that code, then we’re not subject to penalty.

My lesson is to embrace the changes; don’t fight it. As a hospitalist, your job is going to be different a year from now. We might as well get ready for the change, because there’s going to be a lot of change in the system.

–Dr. Greeno

Q: What is the future of the two-midnight rule?

A: The committee and SHM took that on several years ago at my urging because it didn’t seem like other specialties were leading that issue. It doesn’t affect hospitalists in terms of how we’re paid, but it does affect the patients we care for. I think we’ll have a better solution in the coming years.

Q: What should hospitalists be thinking about heading into 2016?

A: They should be starting to prepare for a world where they no longer get paid with fee-for-service. Hospitalists are in the post-acute setting, where a lot of the action takes place, and it’s the high-cost action. My lesson is to embrace the changes; don’t fight it. As a hospitalist, your job is going to be different a year from now. We might as well get ready for the change, because there’s going to be a lot of change in the system.

Kelly April Tyrrell is a freelance writer in Madison, Wis.

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