Can quality measurement and comparisons serve as the backbone for a major shift in the Medicare payment system to reward value instead of volume? That is the question being explored over the next few years as the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and, by extension, the physician value-based payment modifier (VBPM) come fully into effect for all physicians.
There seems to be a consensus in the policy community that the fee-for-service model of payment is past its prime and needs to be replaced with a more dynamic and responsive payment system. Medicare hopes that PQRS and the VBPM will enable adjustments to physician payments to reward high-quality and low-cost care. Although these programs currently are add-ons to the fee-for-service system, they likely will serve as stepping stones to more radical departures from the existing payment system.
SHM advocates refinements to policies for PQRS and similar programs to make them more meaningful and productive for both hospitalists and the broader health-care system. Each year, SHM submits comments on the Physician Fee Schedule Rule, which creates and updates the regulatory framework for PQRS and the VBPM. SHM also provided feedback on Quality and Resource Use Reports (QRURs), the report cards for the modifier that were being tested over the past year.
From a practical standpoint, SHM engages with measure development and endorsement processes to ensure there are reportable quality measures in PQRS that fit hospitalist practice. In addition, SHM is helping to increase accessibility to PQRS reporting by offering members reduced fare access to registry reporting through the PQRI Wizard.
The comments range from the technical aspects of individual quality measures in PQRS to how hospitalists appear to be performing in these programs. SHM firmly believes that the unique positioning of hospitalists within the health-care system presents challenges for their identification and evaluation in Medicare programs. In some sense, hospitalists exist on the line between the inpatient and outpatient worlds, a location not adequately captured in pay-for-performance programs.
It’s imperative that pay-for-performance programs have reasonable and actionable outcomes for providers. If quality measures are not clinically meaningful and do not capture a plurality of the care provided by an individual hospitalist, it is difficult for the program to meet its stated aims. If payment is to be influenced by performance on quality measures, it follows that those measures should be relevant to the care provided.
There is a long way to go toward creating quality measurement and evaluation programs that are relevant and actionable for clinical quality improvement (QI). By becoming involved in SHM’s policy efforts, members are able to share their experiences and impressions of programs with SHM and lawmakers. This partnership helps create more responsive and intuitive programs, which in turn leads to greater participation and, hopefully, improved patient outcomes. As these programs continue to evolve and more health professionals are required to participate, SHM will be looking to its membership for their perspectives.
Join the grassroots network to stay involved and up to date by registering at www.hospitalmedicine.org/grassroots.
Joshua Lapps is SHM’s government relations specialist.