PQRS participants have more leeway and a smaller downside. Starting January 2015, eligible provider groups who meet the reporting requirements can choose either to have no adjustments at all or to compete in the VBPM program for a performance-based bonus or a penalty of 1%, based on cost and quality scores. In January 2017, the program is expected to expand to include all providers, whether in individual or group practice.
A Measure of Relevance
Based on the first QRURs, sent out in March 2012 to providers in four pilot states, SHM wrote a letter to CMS that offered a detailed analysis of several additional concerns. The society followed up with a second letter that provided a more expansive critique of the proposed 2013 Physician Fee Schedule.
One worry is whether the physician feedback/VBPM program has included enough performance measures that are relevant to hospitalists. A Public Policy column in The Hospitalist (“Metric Accountability,” November 2012, p. 18) counted only 10 PQRS measures that apply routinely to HM providers out of a list of more than 200. Even those 10 aren’t always applicable.
“I work at a teaching hospital that’s large enough to have a neurology program, so most acute-stroke patients are admitted by the neurologists,” says Gregory Seymann, MD, SFHM, chief of the division of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Diego and a member of SHM’s Performance Measurement and Reporting Committee. “Five of the 10 measures are related to stroke patients, but my group rarely admits stroke patients.” That means only five PQRS measures remain relevant to him.
On paper, the issue might be readily resolved by expanding the number of measures to better reflect HM responsibilities—such as four measures proposed by SHM that relate to transitions of care and medication reconciliation.
I am very confident that self-reporting or self-nomination as a hospitalist is going to be in place by the time those negative incentives kick in. And I’m also very confident that we’re going to have other, very creative options for quality measurement and performance reporting.
—Patrick Torcson, MD, MMM, FACP, SFHM, director, hospital medicine, St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Covington, La., chair, SHM’s Performance Measurement and Reporting Committee
Other groups, though, have their own ideas. A letter to CMS signed by 28 patient and healthcare payor groups calls for the elimination of almost two dozen PQRS measures deemed unnecessary, duplicative, or uninformative, and for the addition of nine others that might better assess patient outcomes and quality of care. Jennifer Eames Huff, director of the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project at San Francisco-based Pacific Business Group on Health, one of the letter’s signatories, says some of those potential measures might be more applicable to hospitalists as well.
But therein lies the rub. Although process measures might not always be strong indicators of quality of care, the introduction of outcome measures often makes providers nervous, says Gary Young, JD, PhD, director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research at Northeastern University in Boston. “Most providers feel that their patients are sicker and more vulnerable to poorer outcomes, and they don’t want to be judged poorly because they have sicker patients,” he says. Reaching an agreement on the best collection of measures may require some intense negotiations, he says.
We’re going to have to think outside the box in terms of working toward an identifier for hospitalists.
–Win Whitcomb, MD, MHM, medical director of healthcare quality, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass.
Dr. Cowles cites two de-identified QRURs received by Alegent Creighton Health back in March—one for a hospitalist and one for an office-based general internist—to illustrate another major concern shared by many HM providers. The reports broke down each doctor’s relative healthcare contributions, using predetermined percentages of the total care and costs to conclude whether that doctor directed, influenced, or contributed to a patient’s care.