Archive for the ‘Healthcare Quality Ratings’ Category

Shared SNF Patients, Common Readmissions Goals Unify Three Competing Health Systems

June 15th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

A common desire to reduce SNF readmissions resulted in the formation of Michigan's Tri-County SNF Collaborative.

A common desire to reduce SNF readmissions resulted in the formation of Michigan’s Tri-County SNF Collaborative.

Concerned about escalating hospital readmissions from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and the accompanying pinch of Medicare readmissions penalties, three Michigan healthcare organizations decided to set competition aside to collaborate and reduce rehospitalizations from SNFs. Here, Susan Craft, director of care coordination, family caregiver program, Office of Clinical Quality & Safety at Henry Ford Health System, describes the origins of Michigan’s Tri-County SNF Collaborative, of which her organization is a founding member.

I want to talk about the formation of the Tri-County SNF Collaborative between Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center, and St. John Providence Health System. As quality and care transition leaders from each of the health systems, we see each other frequently at various meetings. After some good conversation, we learned that each of us was partnering with our SNFs to improve quality and reduce readmissions.

We all required that they submit data to us that was very similar in nature but not exactly the same, which created a lot of burden for our SNFs to conform to multiple reporting requirements. We knew we were working with the same facilities because geographically, we are all very close to each other. We recognized that this was really a community problem, and not an individual hospital problem. Although we are all competing healthcare systems, those of us with very similar roles in the organization had very little risk from working together. And because we had so much in common, it just made sense that we create this collaborative.

We also worked with our MPRO (Michigan Quality Improvement Organization) and reviewed data that showed that about 30 percent of our patient population was shared between our three health systems. We decided it made sense to move forward. We created a partnership that was based on collaboration and transparency, even within our health systems. We identified common metrics to be used by all of our organizations and agreed upon operational definitions for each of those. We all reached out to our SNF partners to tell them about the collaborative and invite them to join, and then engaged MPRO as our objective third party. We created a charter to solidify that cooperation and collaboration.

Source: A Collaborative Blueprint for Reducing SNF Readmissions: Driving Results with Quality Reporting and Performance Metrics

reducing SNF readmissions

A Collaborative Blueprint for Reducing SNF Readmissions: Driving Results with Quality Reporting and Performance Metrics examines the evolution of the Tri-County SNF Collaborative, as well as the set of clinical and quality targets and metrics with which it operates.

Reducing SNF Readmissions: Clinical Targets, Quality Scorecards Elevate Performance

May 23rd, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

reducing SNF readmissions

Michigan’s Tri-County Collaborative holds the line on hospital readmissions from 130 participating SNFs.

Three geographically close Michigan health systems shared more than a concern over escalating readmissions from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).

As Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), the Detroit Medical Center and St. John’s Providence Health System ultimately discovered from Michigan Quality Improvement Organization (MPRO) data in 2013, they also shared about 30 percent of their patient population.

This revelation, combined with the pinch of new hospital readmission penalties from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), prompted the three to set aside competition and siloed strategies and forge a coordinated approach to reducing readmissions from SNFs.

Today, the resulting Tri-County SNF Collaborative operates with a set of clinical and quality targets and metrics created in tandem with more than 130 member SNFs. Tri-County’s dozen participation requirements for SNFs range from regular reporting through a dedicated SNF portal to achievement of specified performance metrics.

“We developed collaborative relationships,” explained Susan Craft, director of care coordination for the family caregiver program in HFHS’s Office of Clinical Quality & Safety. “We wanted to have very open, honest conversations to review issues that were identified and find ways to resolve those.”

Ms. Craft shared the roots, framework and results of the SNF collaborative, which launched in the first quarter of 2015, during Reducing SNF Readmissions: Quality Reporting Metrics Drive Improvements, a May 2017 webcast now available for replay.

Once admitted to the collaborative, member SNFs must report on 14 metrics in four key areas: acuity, care transitions, quality and readmissions. In return, SNFs receive a 13-point unblinded quarterly scorecard with metrics on readmissions and patient acceptance response times, among many others.

A multidisciplinary team within Tri-County Collaborative reviews all SNF metrics bi-annually to determine each facility’s continued participation.

As for the collaborative’s impact since its launch, Henry Ford Health System achieved a nearly 20 percent drop in Medicare SNF readmissions as well as a 28 percent reduction in SNF lengths of stay. The initiative also identified opportunities for improvement, resulting in enhanced outpatient scheduling and nurse-to-nurse handoffs and interventions focused on SNF-specific issues like sepsis, Ms. Craft explained.

Despite these advancements, the collaborative still faces the inherent challenges of competition and transparency, as well as SNFs’ hesitancy to adopt value-based practices. “Our SNFs are still entirely dependent on fee for service [payment models],” said Craft. “They haven’t been impacted by penalties and value-based purchasing, although that is coming for them next year.”

Although not yet referring to participating SNFs as “preferred providers,” the collaboratives hopes to one day equip patients with complete data pictures to guide them in SNF selection. Also on Tri-County Collaborative’s radar are home care agencies, concluded Ms. Craft.

“We know there needs to be a lot of coordination across all post-acute care settings.”

Listen to Susan Craft describe how Michigan’s SNF Collaborative set aside competition to improve quality and readmission rates.

Infographic: Patient Wait Time Trends

March 27th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

Patients are spending less time waiting to see a doctor compared to six years ago, according to a new infographic by Vitals.

The infographic examines what has lead to decreased wait times, the effect of wait times on physician ratings and cities with the shortest and longest wait times.

Patient-centric interventions like population health management, health coaching, home visits and telephonic outreach are designed to engage individuals in health self-management—contributing to healthier clinical and financial results in healthcare’s value-based reimbursement climate.

But when organizations consistently rank patient engagement as their most critical care challenge, as hundreds have in response to HIN benchmark surveys, which strategies will help to bring about the desired health behavior change in high-risk populations?

9 Protocols to Promote Patient Engagement in High-Risk, High-Cost Populations presents a collection of tactics that are successfully activating the most resistant, hard-to-engage patients and health plan members in chronic condition management. Whether an organization refers to this population segment as high-risk, high-cost, clinically complex, high-utilizer or simply top-of-the-pyramid ‘VIPs,’ the touch points and technologies in this resource will recharge their care coordination approach.

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Infographic: Improving HCAHPS Scores Through Healthcare Design

January 18th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

Only two of the 32 HCAHPS survey questions focus directly on the healthcare physical environment, but the patient experience is shaped by a variety of healthcare design factors that influence all survey questions, according to a new infographic by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. Hospital layouts can affect staff responsiveness. Communication scores can improve by designing quiet spaces. Research shows patients’ perception of cleanliness can be improved with lighting, décor, and furniture choices, and that pain management is influenced by positive distractions, such as views of art and nature—concepts of active healthcare design.

The infographic examines how Cape Coral (Fla.) Hospital, part of Lee Memorial Health System, improved HCAHPS scores through patient-centered healthcare design with its “Pathway to Discovery” project.

Improving HCAHPS Scores Through Healthcare Design

Health Analytics in Accountable Care: Leveraging Data to Transform ACO Performance and Results Between Medicare’s aggressive migration to value-based payment models and MACRA’s 2017 Quality Payment Program rollout, healthcare providers must accept the inevitability of participation in fee-for-quality reimbursement design—as well as cultivating a grounding in health data analytics to enhance success.

As an early adopter of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and the largest sponsor of MSSP accountable care organizations (ACOs), Collaborative Health Systems (CHS) is uniquely positioned to advise providers on the benefits of data analytics and technology, which CHS views as a major driver in its achievements in the MSSP arena. In performance year 2014, nine of CHS’s 24 MSSP ACOs generated savings and received payments of almost $27 million.

Health Analytics in Accountable Care: Leveraging Data to Transform ACO Performance and Results examines program goals, platforms, components, development strategies, target populations and health conditions, patient engagement metrics, results and challenges reported by more than 100 healthcare organizations responding to the February 2016 Digital Health survey by the Healthcare Intelligence Network.

Get the latest healthcare infographics delivered to your e-inbox with Eye on Infographics, a bi-weekly, e-newsletter digest of visual healthcare data. Click here to sign up today. Have an infographic you’d like featured on our site? Click here for submission guidelines.

Infographic: Connecting the Triple Aim and Supply Chain Management

August 17th, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Supply chain processes that support caregivers as well as the products that are selected and sourced directly and indirectly impact patient safety and patient satisfaction, according to a new infographic by the Association for Healthcare Resource and Materials Management.

The infographic examines how supply chain management aligns with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower CostsWritten by the President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and a leading healthcare journalist, this groundbreaking book examines how leading organizations in the United States are pursuing the “Triple Aim”: improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost of care.

Pursuing the Triple Aim: Seven Innovators Show the Way to Better Care, Better Health, and Lower Costs shares compelling stories that are emerging in locations ranging from Pittsburgh to Seattle, from Boston to Oakland, focused on topics including improving quality and lowering costs in primary care; setting challenging goals to control chronic disease with notable outcomes; leveraging employer buying power to improve quality, reduce waste, and drive down cost; paying for care under an innovative contract that compensates for quality rather than quantity; and much more. The authors describe these innovations in detail, and show the way toward a healthcare system for the nation that improves the experience and quality of care while at the same time controlling costs.

Get the latest healthcare infographics delivered to your e-inbox with Eye on Infographics, a bi-weekly, e-newsletter digest of visual healthcare data. Click here to sign up today.

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Appointment Data Opens Door to Population Health Management of Rising Risk Patients

August 9th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

The rising risk population represents a healthcare organization’s “low-hanging fruit,” says Dr. Adrian Zai, clinical director of population informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Sometimes the most powerful population health management intervention is simply to convince a patient to make an appointment.

This is the first step Dr. Adrian Zai, clinical director of population informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), would recommend to any organization hoping to better manage its rising risk population, a group the physician describes as “low-hanging fruit.”

“The appointment does not require significant investment in any health IT or other resources,” said Dr. Zai during Targeting High-Risk and Rising-Risk Patients: A Multi-Pronged Strategy, an August 2016 webinar now available for replay. “All you need is appointment data. The key is to identify existing data you already have in your organization and start there, so that you impact outcomes.”

Dr. Zai, whose hospital has been ranked number one in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, likened the notion of an organization acquiring a sophisticated health data analytics system prior to identifying clinical outcomes to “building a house without an architect.”

However, having done its due data diligence, MGH’s population health management approach embraces technology. The MGH approach, which targets rising- and high-risk patients, has moved far beyond appointment-setting, constructing a safety net program with the goal of improving clinical outcomes for 300,000 patients in its entire primary care network— a network spanning MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

To this end, MGH developed a new set of clinically meaningful measures, but not before soliciting physician feedback on its existing set. In response, doctors identified more than 200 challenges to the old measures that MGH addressed in its new decision support system.

With new measures in place, MGH then created central population health coordinator teams to support primary care physicians in population health management, freeing clinicians to care for patients.

The selection of technology to support MGH’s primary care safety net presented its own challenges. “Frequently, the tools you end up with—for data aggregation, analytics, care coordination, and patient outreach—don’t actually talk to each other. You need a system to pull all of these functionalities together. That’s the strategy we took,” said Dr. Zai.

The new MGH population health management system enables clinicians to identify and share gaps in care with MGH care coordinators and population health managers, so they can intervene and try and close those gaps, he continued.

The system also tracks outcomes. After using the system for only six months, MGH reported improvement in every one of its newly developed performance framework measures. Not only is the ability to review outcomes appealing to payors, but 85 percent of MGH physicians surveyed also expressed satisfaction with the system—as well as its concurrent financial incentives.

In closing, Dr. Zai reiterated the need for collaboration: between staffers doing the work and the informatics tying those efforts neatly together. “One cannot work without the other. That technology is just a tool. Just as you cannot give a hammer to someone and expect them to build a house, you need the talents working together with technology to make that happen.”

Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Zai on reducing the natural inertia of low-risk patients to move into the high-risk stratum.

MACRA Mantra for Physician Practices: “Chase the Quality, and the Dollars Will Follow”

July 19th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

Physician practices should position themselves to be paid for volume now and value in the future, McKesson’s Eric Levin advised webinar participants.


If provider discontent doesn’t prompt a delay, the controversial MACRA legislation will become reality in just six months, shaking up traditional physician reporting and reimbursement as healthcare knows it.

And while the proposed MACRA rule is still in flux, the bones of the law aren’t expected to change, notes Eric Levin, McKesson’s director of strategic services. From this point forward, he says, care coordination will be the ticket to success in eventual MACRA value- and performance-based healthcare models.

“As clinical alignment and care coordination increase, if you are not participating in some type of value-based care program, most likely you’re not being reimbursed or rewarded for that work,” Levin told participants in The New Physician Quality Reporting: Positioning Your Practice for MACRA’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, a July 2016 webinar now available for replay.

In outlining MACRA’s intent, Levin chiefly focused on the Merit-Based Incentive Payment Systems (MIPS) rather than the second reimbursement path, alternative payment systems (APMs), since the majority—88 percent—of physicians is expected to qualify under MIPS rather than APMs.

Zeroing in on MIPS, Levin reviewed eligibility, performance categories and data submission options, among other points. He then detailed the plethora of current and planned technical assistance options from CMS—including eventual practice transformation networks to provide peer-level support to physicians—before offering practical ways physician practices can prepare now for MACRA.

His six immediate action steps for practices included dipping a toe into analytics and data aggregation. “Look at the data. Learn how to risk-stratify. See the gaps in care you currently have and where those can be filled in so you’re not just measuring but actually improving quality,” Levin advised. The CMS Quality and Resource Use Report is useful for estimating a practice’s MIPS score, he added.

In offering six additional tactics to become MACRA-ready, Levin recommended physician practices acquaint themselves with national benchmarks as a primer in quality measurement.

And on Levin’s accompanying five-point MACRA implementation checklist is a reminder to stay current on CMS’s proposed and final MACRA rulings. Fostering relationships with technology vendors wouldn’t hurt either, he added.

His final points covered additional MACRA implementation resources, including education from provider associations, as well as the benefits of Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition and engagement in CMS’s Chronic Care Management initiative in MACRA preparation.

“These programs will really help you begin the value-based journey if you have not started.”

Levin emphasized providers should not wait for the final rule. Rather, physician practices should “learn how to focus on quality outcomes and costs, helping focus on the patient as well as that patient-provider relationship. Look at how you can identify ways to increase inexpensive patient encounters.”

Before concluding, Levin answered participants’ questions on how MACRA and MIPS will impact specialty providers; lessons practices can take from participation in the Physician Quality Reporting System, Meaningful Use and other value-based initiatives to enhance MACRA success; recommendations for small and solo practices; and other key concerns.

Learn more about Levin’s presentation.

CMS to Physicians: 3 Things You Really Need to Know About MACRA

June 20th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

It is expected that most physician practices will opt for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) under new MACRA-mandated reimbursement strategies.

It is expected that most physician practices will opt for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) under new MACRA-mandated reimbursement strategies.

While digesting the implications of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) can be an understandable distraction for physicians, the goal of the MACRA program is to return the focus to patient care, not spend time learning a new program, emphasized CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt to members of the American Medical Association during the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago last week.

Early in Slavitt’s comments, available in their entirety in a June 2016 post in the CMS blog, he posed the following two questions to physicians: What do you really need to know about the MACRA program? And what new sets of requirements are there to participate?

At the outset of his explanation, Slavitt emphasized Medicare will still pay for services as it always has, but every physician and other participating clinicians will have the opportunity to be paid more for better care and for making investments that support patients—like having a staff member follow up with patients at home.

As the AMA, AAFP and other physician support organizations have done, CMS will provide comprehensive MACRA documentation, Slavitt assured the association. “We will, of course, provide information in as much or as little detail as is helpful. For those who like to read computer manuals end-to-end, there is of course the 900-page proposed rule complete with every detail about how the regulation and the law is proposed to work. But, for most people, who do not need to see every scenario and how each element of the formula works, there are webinars, in-person meetings, fact sheets, and web portals that will bring all the information to suit various needs.”

Slavitt then outlined three immediate features of the program designed as improvements over Medicare’s existing payment system:

  • First, MACRA sunsets three disjointed programs. If you participate in the Physician Quality Reporting System, the Value Modifier, and the Meaningful Use program, your life just got simpler, as they are replaced with a single, aligned Quality Payment Program, which will reduce reporting requirements, eliminate duplication, and reduce the number of measures. For those who participate in MACRA Alternative Payment Models, those requirements are reduced further or eliminated.
  • Second, it also reduces the combined possible downward adjustment of 9 percent that is occurring today from the three programs to a maximum of 4 percent in the first year of the Quality Payment Program. The program is designed to build up over the course of several years, with more modest financial impacts in the first year when the vast majority of physicians are expected to be in the MIPS part of the program.
  • Third, while the Merit-Based Incentive portion of the law is designed to be budget neutral in general, there are new opportunities for additional bonuses. In MIPS, in addition to the 4 percent positive payment adjustment, there is the potential for much higher payments through $500 million in funding over six years. Physicians earn a 5 percent lump sum bonus for participating in an Advanced Alternative Payment Model.

Under the current proposed timing, the first physician reporting isn’t due until early 2018 for the first performance period in 2017, Slavitt said. Off-the-shelf tools like Certified EHRs and clinical data registries can provide complete capabilities, but other options exist as well, including most types of reporting that a physician is doing today.

If CMS can get data automatically or through another source, it will do so, he stated, before moving on to MACRA implementation and priorities.

Editor’s Note: To briefly outline MACRA and advise on physician practice focus for the remainder of 2016 to avoid reimbursement penalties in 2017 based on the MACRA proposed rule, the Healthcare Intelligence Network will hold a 45-minute webinar on July 14, 2016: The New Physician Quality Reporting: Positioning Your Practice for MACRA’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System.

Are You MACRA-Ready? Physician Groups Prep Members for Medicare Payment Modernization

May 16th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

Physician groups digested the 962-page MACRA notice of proposed rule-making in order to distill the notice for their members.

As they digest the HHS’s momentous proposal to modernize how Medicare provider payments are tied to the cost and quality of patient care, physician organizations are assembling arsenals of educational tools to de-mystify MACRA.

The federal government’s first step in implementing certain provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) was detailed in an April 2016 announcement.

Just nine days after that bulletin, the AAFP arranged a town hall meeting for its members with two high-ranking CMS officials to discuss the law that will greatly influence how physicians are paid. Comments provided by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt via conference call are detailed here.

While the HHS window to receive feedback on the proposal remains open through June 27, 2016, the AMA has created an extensive set of online resources to support physician preparations for a post-MACRA Medicare. The resources include a guide to physician-focused payment models, key points of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), and five things providers can do now to prepare for the legislation, among other resources, according to a May 2016 press release.

“The core policy elements in MACRA are surfacing in other public and private insurance programs, so understanding these policies will be essential for most physician practices,” said AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD.

The AMA’s MACRA support tools were announced in conjunction with the release of its new interactive module on practicing value-based care authored by Grace Terrell, MD, an internal medicine physician and president of Cornerstone Health Care, who shares the proven steps her clinic used to focus on patients at the center of care.

The value-based care module is the latest in the AMA’s STEPS Forward™ collection of physician-developed practice improvement strategies.

Also readying its membership for MACRA is the AAFP, which last week launched a comprehensive member communication and education effort related to the proposed legislation. The AAFP’s MACRA Ready site is a one-stop shop filled with resources family physicians can use right now such as the following:

  • A timeline of important MACRA dates;
  • A list of acronyms to help digest the alphabet soup associated with MACRA’s complicated regulations;
  • A “MACRA in a Minute” 60-second overview video;
  • A deep-dive review of what value-based payment means to family physicians;
  • and much more.

In announcing the MACRA tools, AAFP President Wanda Filer, MD, MB, told family physicians that the academy’s MACRA communication plan “is designed to help simplify the transition and provide the guidance that you will need to realize the benefits of MACRA and value-based payments.”

A recent AAFP survey indicated that some 40 percent of family physicians already were involved in some kind of value-based payment system, she noted.

As she related the history of MACRA, Dr. Filer reminded members that the legislation not only repealed the sustainable growth rate (SGR) but also established an annual positive or flat-fee payment for the next 10 years as well as a two-track program (the MIPS, and Alternative Payment Models, referred to as APMs) for calculating Medicare payments beginning in 2019.

MACRA Transition Bolstered by CMS Quality Measure Development Plan

May 9th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

payment bundling shared savings

Partnerships are key to the final Quality Measure Development Plan by CMS.

The final Quality Measure Development Plan by CMS is an essential aspect of its transition to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), according to last week’s blog post by Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS, director of CMS’s Center for Clinical Standards & Quality.

The Quality Measure Development Plan is a strategic framework for clinician quality measurement development to support the new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and advanced alternative payment models (APMs), stated Dr. Goodrich.

CMS recently rolled out a proposed rule outlining MACRA’s payment incentives for physicians and other clinicians based on quality rather than quantity of care.

The final Quality Measure Development Plan will provide the foundation for building and implementing a measure portfolio to support the quality payment programs under MACRA, Dr. Goodrich said.

After considering comments and suggestions for the plan, CMS finalized the Quality Measure Development Plan to include the following:

  • Identification of known measurement and performance gaps and prioritization of approaches to close those gaps by developing, adopting and refining quality measures, including measures in each of the six quality domains:
    • Clinical care;

    • Safety;

    • Care coordination;

    • Patient and caregiver experience;

    • Population health and prevention;

    • Affordable care.
  • CMS actions to promote and improve alignment of measures, including the Core Quality Measures Collaborative, a work group convened by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). On February 16, 2016, CMS and the collaborative announced the selection of seven core measure sets that will support multi-payor and cross-setting quality improvement and reporting across our nation’s healthcare systems.
  • Partnering with frontline clinicians and professional societies as a key consideration to reduce the administrative burden of quality measurement and ensure its relevance to clinical practices.
  • Partnering with patients and caregivers as a key consideration for having the voice of the patient, family, and/or caregiver incorporated throughout measure development.
  • Increased focus and coordination with federal agencies and other stakeholders to lessen duplication of effort and promote person-centered healthcare.