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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 10/27/16

October 27, 2016 Dr. Jayne 2 Comments

Hot on the heels of the MACRA Final Rule, CMS announced expanded opportunities for physicians to participate in Advanced Alternative Payment Models. One of the opportunities includes reopening applications for the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) program. This is a coordinated initiative that involves the participation of multiple commercial payers in addition to Medicare and Medicaid across specifically identified regions across the nation.

Although they initially said they would take up to 20 regions for the program, they only announced 14. It would be an easy thing to open applications for providers, but they’re also opening it for payers, which makes me wonder if they’re going to select additional regions for this new 2018 cohort. They’re also calling for new participants in the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization model for 2018.

I was on a CMS Quality Payment Program Overview webinar today. Although I give them props for nice classical hold music, it would have been better if they didn’t start late and then run over time. I’ve been on several CMS webinars lately and they tend to be overly scripted. As someone who does a lot of presentations, I appreciate their desire to make sure they deliver all the information, but there’s definitely an opportunity to be more engaging.

Because of the number of questions and the late start, they didn’t answer many of the questions posed by attendees. I understand that there were more than a thousand people on the call, and with that many questions, it illustrates how complicated these programs are and the level of concern felt by providers.

One attendee asked how CMS is going to manage the idea of patient free will and the fact that physicians are being held liable for patient behavior. The attendee gave the specific answer of a patient with lung disease who leaves the hospital and immediately starts smoking, which has the potential to skew quality numbers. She went on to ask what preparations are being made to address the possibility of patient dumping, where physicians refuse to treat patients who fail to comply with treatment plans and recommendations. Dumping (and cherry-picking, where clinicians go after the healthiest patients) has been a real issue in the past as various payer programs penalized providers for being quality outliers.

The Medicare Learning Network offers their version of a Quality Payment Program call on November 15th and interested parties still have the opportunity to enter comments on the Final Rule. Registration is open and space is limited. This is in addition to their “How to Report Across 2016 Medicare Quality Programs” call that is being held on November 1.

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There are so many things that primary care physicians must advise their patients on that it often feels like there’s not enough hours in the day. This month, one more thing has been added to the list, and it’s an item that isn’t going to be a quick conversation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed new safe sleep guidelines that recommend that infants sleep in the same room as their parents (although not in the same bed) for the first year of life. Despite recent interventions, there are still 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths each year and the new recommendations aim to reduce that number. These are the kinds of conversations that take more time than the typical office visits allow, creating additional time pressure for clinicians.

Those time pressures challenge physicians who are  being graded on how we’re doing with patient engagement. My office uses a Web-based patient engagement platform that surveys each patient or caregiver who provides an email address at check-out. Our scores (on a scale of zero to five) are part of the formula that determines whether we receive a bonus and how much it might be. Usually my scores are fives with the occasional four. The scores roll in real time and I’ll often see results from patients I saw just a few hours earlier.

Today I got a three, which was strange because all the comments associated with the score were strongly positive. Our office calls each patient who gives us less than a four, so I’ll get additional feedback on the reason for the low score. Looking at the schedule, she was seen during a patient rush when our wait time was over an hour and while I was in the process of transferring two patients to the hospital for life-threatening emergencies. It’s likely that the wait time played a role in the score, but it’s certainly discouraging for physicians who provide high-quality care but don’t carry a magic wand.

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Speaking of magic wands, I definitely need one for a current client. I’m doing some governance work for a mid-sized health system that has been struggling with their EHR to the point where they’re ready to start looking for a new vendor. They realized how expensive a system replacement might be, so they brought me in to do a thorough review and to see if anything can be salvaged.

I found an extensive list of issues ranging from defective hosting to absent physician leadership. There are also some configuration issues with the EHR, but nothing that can’t be fixed. I’m in the middle of a follow-up consulting engagement trying to get their leadership organized around a common vision and mission. I’ve struggled with one of their clinical leaders who keeps focusing on perceived EHR issues (which are largely self-inflicted) to the exclusion of everything else. I’ve been trying to get the leadership to focus on strategic planning and creating prioritized action plans, but it’s hard to get the clinical leadership to show up, let alone participate.

Today one of the most difficult clinicians graced us with his presence after several weeks absence and proceeded to try to hijack the agenda and pull us back into a discussion of EHR issues, most of which have already been corrected. I used my best facilitator skills to try to redirect him, to try to engage the group to self-police, and to place his various rants on my “parking lot” for later discussion. He insisted that “we can’t get strategic until we get past the issues.”

That definitely wins my quote of the day award, especially since under his approach, they’ll go nowhere fast. It’s hard to make a roadmap when you haven’t decided where you’re headed. And if you don’t know whether you’re driving to the beach or to the mountains, it’s going to be hard to plot out the fuel stops and tourist attractions along the way. I was ultimately able to thwart his attempts to block the group’s progress, but it wasn’t easy.

How do you handle people who are constantly stuck in the weeds? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. RE: “How do you handle people who are constantly stuck in the weeds?”

    There are several good techniques:

    1). That sounds like something we can take offline. Can we discuss that later?

    2). There is a Help Desk set up to deal with those issues. I’ll send you the contact information;

    3). Those matters concern X. This meeting is about Y. If you like, you can schedule a meeting about the matters X and we’ll discuss them then.

    There is one thing to be wary of. I have been in a situation (and on the wrong side of it too), where as a service provider, we had done a systematically poor job of meeting our client’s needs and wishes. The unsurprising result was that the organization at large had a poor view of my department. When we would approach them about big initiatives, we’d encounter stupid numbers of roadblocks.

    Eventually my department turned the Help Desk function around, we (almost by accident) started to build up our reputation. Eventually we were the first people they would contact for systems assistance rather than being the last. It needed an honest effort on all the small items before those clients would even trust us with the big initiatives.

  2. Interesting points to consider on patient compliance, provider cherry-picking/lemon-dropping and the subjective nature of patient ratings.

    I assumed providers would use HCAHPS for patient ratings data reporting to keep things uniform. (Forgive me my cursed assumptions!) Do providers have flexibility there under QPP?

    I think I learned somewhere along the way tat quality data reporting was coupled with risk-adjustment to account for providers serving more at-risk patients. I now see that that just tracking improvement margins still leaves room for the patient follow-thru issue to have a negative impact. Will be interesting to see what happens with that data!







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