NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Patient satisfaction, physician engagement, and administrator buy-in, oh my.
So went the thoughts of Jaidev Bhoopal, MD, last month at HM15. He’d been a hospitalist for about eight years, but he was named section chair about a month before he arrived at the annual meeting. His calculated first stop was the daylong practice management pre-course titled “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Managing in the Era of Healthcare Reform.”
The timing couldn’t have been better.
“I’m starting a new role and I wanted to get input and ideas,” said Dr. Bhoopal, section chair of the hospitalist department at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, Minn. “This gives you a playbook of where you want to be and where you want to go.”
A playbook for where to go could just as well be the slogan for practice management’s role at SHM’s annual meeting. An educational track, a dedicated—and ever-popular—pre-course, and a chance to ask the field’s founding fathers their best practices were among the highlights of this spring’s four-day confab.
The need for practice management and leadership training is greater in the past few years as hospitalists have been more confounded than ever with how to best run their practices under a myriad of new rules and regulations tied to the Affordable Care Act and the digitization of healthcare. At their core, the changes are shifting hospital-based care from fee-for-service to value-based payments.
“The tipping point is really here for us,” said Win Whitcomb, MD, MHM, chief medical officer of Remedy Partners of Darien, Conn.
Dr. Whitcomb, a founder of SHM and regular columnist for The Hospitalist, said that HM group (HMG) leaders have to be well versed in how to navigate a landscape of alternative payment models to excel in the new paradigm. Particularly after the announcement earlier this year that the federal government has set a goal of tying 85% of Medicare hospital fee-for-service payments to quality or value by 2016, and that percentage could increase to 90% by 2018. The January announcement was the first time in Medicare’s history that explicit goals for alternative payment models and value-based payments were set, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Strategically, these things are essential to work into the plan of what the hospital medicine group is doing in the coming three to five years,” Dr. Whitcomb said. “Hospitalists can’t do this alone. They have to do it with teams. It’s not only teams of other professionals in the hospital and around the hospital, but it’s other physicians.”
Dr. Whitcomb said key to the new paradigm is shared financial and clinical responsibilities. He says hospitalists have to “change our thinking…to a mindset where we’re in this together.”
Part of that shared responsibility extends to the post-acute care setting, where SHM senior vice president for practice management Joseph Miller said that some 30% of HMGs are practicing. To help those practitioners, SHM and IPC Healthcare of North Hollywood, Calif., debuted the “Primer for Hospitalists on Skilled Nursing Facilities” at HM15.
The educational program, housed at SHM’s Learning Portal, has 32 lessons meant to differentiate the traditional acute-care hospital from post-acute care facilities. It is grouped in five sections and two modules, with a focus on skilled-nursing facilities (SNFs), which are the most common post-acute care settings.
“The types of resources that are available are different, and that’s not only in terms of staff, but the availability of specialists, the availability of testing capabilities,” Miller said. “If you need to work with a cardiologist for a particular patient...how do you engage them? You’re not going to be able to have them come and see that patient frequently. How do you communicate with them to get the feedback you need as the attending physician?”
Another communication hassle involves the growing number of HMGs spread over multiple sites. For Sara Shraibman, MD, an assistant program director at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, N.Y., those sites are two hospitals covered by the North Shore LIJ Medical Group.
“It’s actually a new program, so we are trying to look at our compensation, models comparing them across two hospitals…and how we manage,” she said. “Not every hospitalist will go back and forth. Some will, some won’t. Some will work nights to help cover, some won’t. It’s very interesting trying to come up with a schedule.”
The best way to address conflict at multi-site groups is communicating and focusing on shared goals, said David Weidig, MD, director of hospital medicine for Aurora Medical Group in West Allis, Wis., and a new member of Team Hospitalist.
“Make sure that no matter what conflict might be up front, that everybody is looking at the goals downstream and saying, ‘Yes, that is a goal we want to achieve. We want to have better patient safety metrics. We want to have decreased readmissions. We want to have better transitions of care,’” Dr. Weidig said. “The common goal all the way from hospital administrators all the way down to hospital physicians is going to be the key.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.