5 Playing to the test: As with other pay-for-performance programs, there is a legitimate concern that physicians will be overwhelmingly motivated to play to the test, so that their efforts to perform exceedingly well at a few metrics will crowd out and hinder their performance on unmeasured metrics. This tendency can result in lower-value care in the sum total, even if the metrics show stellar performance.
6 Reducing the risk: As seen in other pay-for-performance programs, there is a legitimate concern that physicians will be overwhelmingly motivated to avoid caring for patients who are likely to be unpredictable, including those with multiple co-morbid conditions or with complex social situations; these patients are likely to perform less well on any metric, despite risk adjusting (which is inherently imperfect). This is a well-known and documented risk of publicly reported programs, and there is no reason to believe the PVBM program will be immune to this risk.
Because these flaws seem so daunting at first glance, many physicians and physician groups will be tempted to reject the program outright and take the financial hit induced by nonparticipation. An alternative approach is to embrace all of the value programs outright, investing time and energy in improving the metrics that are truly valuable to both patients and providers.
Regardless of which regulatory agency is demanding performance, we need to be active participants in foraging out what metrics and attribution logic are most appropriate. For hospitalists, these could include risk-adjusted device days, appropriate prescribing and unprescribing of antibiotics, judicious utilization of diagnostic testing, and measurements of patient functional status and/or mobility.
Value metrics are here to stay, including those attributable to individual physicians; our job now is to advocate for meaningful metrics and meaningful attribution, which can and should motivate hospitalists to enhance their patients’ quality of life at a lower cost.
Dr. Scheurer is a hospitalist and chief quality officer at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. She is physician editor of The Hospitalist. Email her at [email protected].