Improving quality in healthcare is an important fundamental goal. New “pay for performance” measures initiated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services is a well meaning attempt to provide financial incentives to physicians who demonstrate improved patient outcomes. Unfortunately, this incentive program could backfire.
A recent article in Medical Economics (via Kevin MD) raised the question of “cherry picking and lemon dropping” your way to higher pay. In this frightening scenario, physicians would be tempted to select healthier, more compliant patients for regular treatment in their practices. In this manner, they can demonstrate better outcomes, since the sicker, poorer, or less compliant patients no longer factor into their performance measures. And with the upcoming physician shortage, it really is a seller’s market.
It is critically important for the government programs to allow physicians to accurately risk stratify their patients so that they are not financially penalized for taking care of sicker patients bound to have below average outcomes. The same goes for surgeons, who should not be discouraged from undertaking potentially lifesaving surgeries for patients who are critically ill.
Dr. Kellerman, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, reminds us that quality of care is vastly improved by having a central medical home (i.e. one physician who can coordinate care for patients, so they’re not left with a group of disconnected specialists ordering duplicate tests and prescriptions). I personally think that a centralized EMR/PHR controlled by the patient (and located at an Internet based “medical home” complete with disease management tools and the ability to email a physician as needed) would go a long way to improving quality.
What do you think?
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.