Bonuses for delivering high quality care will be the focus of a three-market program spearheaded by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and supported by a coalition of physicians, health plans, large employers, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Rewarding physicians for improving the quality of health care they give just makes sense," says CMS Administrator Tom Scully. "We applaud the efforts of all of the parties, public and private, who are responsible for launching this initiative."
The effort — called Bridges to Excellence — which was unveiled April 10, focuses on diabetes care in the Cincinnati and Louisville market, and on physician investment in information systems and care management tools in the Boston area.
"A lot of physicians would like to invest in information systems to help deliver better care, but insurance payments haven't covered those costs," says Thomas Lee, MD, the medical director of Partners Community Health Care in Boston.
In the diabetes program, called Diabetes Care Link, physicians will get annual bonuses for providing quality treatment to their diabetic patients.
The details of the third phase, which will focus on cardiac care, will be announced later this year.
The NCQA says that Bridges to Excellence is unique in terms of the size of incentive payments and the number of physicians involved. Participating doctors could earn $10,000 or more in financial incentives. NCQA spokesman Brian Schilling says that there will be "many hundreds" of doctors participating.
Incentives for patients will also be included. "An optional patient reward program is available to encourage employees and family members to take an active role in managing their condition," the NCQA states.
Francois de Brantes, a General Electric official who coordinates the Bridges to Excellence program, says the effort tackles some long-standing concerns by focusing on something everyone agrees with.
"We need to address some fundamental issues in health care — not least of which is to work toward a common goal of quality care," he says.