September 11, 2019
“We chose to go to the moon” President John Kennedy’s statement instigated a monumental marshaling of resources to achieve a remarkable goal. Those famous words also established a powerful metaphor for aiming high. We need an equally monumental shift in purpose and commitment of resources for how we conduct clinical science. Nothing less than our nation’s health is at stake. In my view, there are only three possible ways research efforts might proceed: First, the conduct of research might not change, but continue to rely on observational studies and non-generalizable randomized trials (RTs). If so, populations of subjects included in…Read More
September 4, 2019
Will “Value” Help Consumers Choose?
In the emerging days of Value-Based Health Care (VBHC), “value” was defined by quality, cost, and experience of health care for patients—the “Triple Aim.” The movement’s initial defining goal: patients should be able to access high value health care services that improved outcomes, to get value for their dollars. Likewise, employers and other purchasers deserved similar value for their share of investment in health care benefit plans. Because incentives inherent in insurance and Fee-for-Service (FFS) payment systems reward volume over value, however, VBHC has also had a subagenda to make value pay for providers. But to reward better value instead,…Read More
August 28, 2019
How Should Primary Care-Centric Physician Practices Choose A Path to Risk?
It’s an urgent question for most practices: How should physicians participate in value-based reimbursement? Traditional Medicare is moving assertively to physician payment models that include capitation and ceilings on spending, with revenue risk tied to patient care costs. Without a doubt, primary care practices are bearing the brunt of risk-based reimbursement. With the exception of specialty-aimed Bundled Payments, most payment models are primary care-centric. Patient costs are grouped and then attributed to their primary care physicians—regardless of whether the services were provided by those physicians or by specialists and hospitals—and those PCPs are then rewarded or penalized under various risk…Read More
August 21, 2019
AI May Be the Future, But It’s Not (Yet) the Future of Clinical Research
Good medical practice depends on good clinical research. Without rigorous, replicable, reliable research findings, we cannot trust that our medical decisions are based on truth. To put it bluntly, flawed research leads to bad medicine. It’s essential that we get it right. In this series, I have argued for a more rigorous approach. The present model of clinical research is expensive, slow, studies insufficient populations of subjects—making generalizability difficult— and lacks power to examine important variations in clinical and personal characteristics of individuals. In my biased view, study design determines if research is being done. Without an appropriate design, we…Read More
August 14, 2019
Five Actions ACOs Should Take Now: Takeaways from Proposed CMS Rulemaking
Last week CMS released a proposed rule addressing revisions in the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and the Quality Payment Program (QPP), along with a few other matters. Of 1,704 pages, only about 20 addressed ACOs issues directly. But ACOs should take a holistic approach to reading this proposed rule, as well as the proposed Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule. Competition Among Risk Models Will Strongly Affect the Course of Change With so many CMS programs and models now in flux, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It’s worth the effort to pay attention to the…Read More
August 7, 2019
Risk Payment Models Will Fuel Growth of Equity-Backed Physician Practices
Risk payment models present a daunting challenge to the very cultural of medicine—for most physician practices. Physicians identify their practices as clinical enterprises more than businesses, although some have managed to achieve success solely by being excellent clinicians in their fields. Patients, however, are quick to see the flaws along with higher costs—hence complaints about customer service, poor billing practices, and difficulty communicating. But clinical practice success, up until now, has been measured by the yardstick of Fee-for-Service reimbursement: higher incomes through patient volume and services. Hospital purchasers of physician practices adopted the same benchmarks of success. Even as hospital…Read More
July 24, 2019
Can ACOs Survive the Complicated New Landscape in Medicare Risk?
What a difference a year makes. In Spring 2018, many Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) pondered a walkout over Medicare plans that included downside risk in ACO financials. Nonetheless, CMS finalized its plans to make provider risk a reality for all ACOs in its Pathways to Success overhaul of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). ACOs’ lukewarm reception to the goal of compelled savings, however, was not forgotten. Fast forward to April 2019, when CMS announced five Primary Care Models to propel physician groups to adopt risk-based reimbursement directly—including capitation. Those models are now under fast-paced implementation, with application deadlines approaching.…Read More
July 17, 2019
How the Stock Market Models a Path to Better Research.
The better clinical research is, the better medical care will be. It is so crucial to the future of best medical care that I have highlighted deficiencies of the present conduct of randomized trials (RTs) in previous articles to suggest ways to improve. A system of better research must accommodate studies on any intervention aimed to improve care, including interventions such as a change in practice, any quality or safety plan, or an economic principle such as fee-for-service versus capitation—not just studies of new drugs. In my last article, I coined the term “Gallup Research Medicine” as a model to…Read More
July 10, 2019
Can Medicare Primary Care Risk Models Work in Today’s Practice Environment?
There’s now no doubt that Medicare is eager to move forward with Value-Based Health Care and risk-based reimbursement. CMS has rolled out major changes to make Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) risk-bearing and add attractive benefits to capitated Medicare Advantage plans. Add to that two new classes of Primary Care Risk Models that introduce risk-based reimbursement into the general provider population, which, CMS says, are designed to stimulate primary care: Primary Care First (PCF) and Direct Contracting (DC). But we also know, from early CMS statements on direct contracting, that it intended to find other mechanisms to move physicians into Value-Based Health…Read More
June 26, 2019
Follow the Pathway to PCP Success In Medicare Direct Contracting
Primary care physicians were sitting on the sidelines as Medicare developed financial risk models in various generations of ACOs. At best, they could only hope to participate in Medicare Advantage and/or join a larger ACO. But potential for financial gain was elusive when the physicians’ success depended on the actions of others to achieve savings. Now Medicare is offering a carrot to large primary care practices with its new Direct Contracting (DC) models, luring them with the possibility of capturing higher and more predictable revenues as well as shared savings. CMS recently announced an initiative to test risk-based reimbursement models…Read More