Hospitals participating in the proposed VBP program can earn rewards based on two different criteria.
“This aspect is far and away the most important part of this program coming from CMS,” says Dr. Seymann. “They’ve learned from experience with the Premier [Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration] project on hospital value-based purchasing that the hospitals that started out doing the best got the lion’s share of the reward because they were already doing well. Unfortunately, those that started at the bottom showed greater overall improvement but didn’t reach the top performance threshold, so they saw no financial recognition.”
So in the proposed VBP program, hospitals can demonstrate quality through overall performance on specific measures or through improvement over time in specific measures.
“Hospitals that reach the benchmark—the median of the top decile of performance—get the maximum number of points toward achieving the reward,” explains Dr. Seymann. “But hospitals can gain some points as long as they fall within the attainment range [between the 50th percentile and the mean of the top decile], proportional to how well they do. You get points for both the amount of improvement and the absolute attainment, and whichever score is higher comprises your score on that measure.”
Dr. Seymann calls this adjustment in the incentive structure “the most positive piece of this program,” explaining, “All hospitals have the opportunity to participate and to earn rewards.”
What It Means for Hospitalists
When VBP becomes a reality, how will that affect hospitalists?
“A lot of what hospitalists do for hospitals is improve quality,” says Dr. Seymann. “They’re likely to be asked to partner with their hospitals to put protocols in place for value-based purchasing. … Hospitals can’t make this work without physician participation, and a lot of hospital medicine groups are aligned with their hospitals on quality-improvement measures.”
It seems inevitable PQRI will morph into a CMS P4P or value-based purchasing program—or both. Whatever happens with these demonstration projects, hospitalists will be reporting on measures, and SHM wants to ensure those measures are appropriate.
“There are only 17 measures now; that’s a narrow sample to define quality at a hospital,” Dr. Seymann points out regarding VBP. “SHM will want to be involved in identifying gaps in care and recommending more measures in the future—like care coordination.” TH
Jane Jerrard also writes “Career Development” for The Hospitalist.