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Let's Keep the Payment Reform Momentum Going

Mar 31, 2015, 10:22 AM, Posted by Andrea Ducas

Recent advancements in payment reform have been massive and exciting. It's time to sustain the momentum and transform how we pay for and deliver care.

A hundred dollar bill. Modified image. Original photo by Ervins Strauhmanis.

When it comes to how health care providers are paid, change is in the air. I’m probably more excited than most people about trying to make sure our financial incentives are flowing the right way within the health care system. Here’s why.

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Exactly How Much DOES That Appendectomy Cost?

Aug 1, 2014, 4:29 PM, Posted by Andrea Ducas

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Want to know one of health care’s dirty little secrets? While we know how much the country spends on care each year, we have little understanding of what it actually costs to provide care.

Think, for example, about an appendectomy. What does it really “cost” the health care system to perform that procedure? The answer is complex, and of course it includes everyone’s time—from the surgeon to housekeeping staff—and it also includes the drugs, equipment, space, and overhead associated with your stay.

The cost of your visit will also depend on who is delivering your care. A consult with a registered nurse (RN) is less costly to the hospital than one with a physician.

Then, consider insurance. If the price your carrier pays for that RN consult is $85, but the price another carrier pays is only $65, what does it actually cost the hospital—and how do those variances affect what you pay both out-of-pocket and for insurance premiums? Moreover, health care providers are currently not trained to think about the costs of the care they provide—and often have no incentive or means to even consider those costs.

These complexities have made it difficult to reform the way we purchase and pay for health care.

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RWJF Clinical Scholars Video Podcast: Joshua Sharfstein on Hospital Incentives

Jun 19, 2014, 2:00 PM

One of the challenges of health care reform is to realign financial incentives so that providers and hospitals have economic inducements to keep patients healthy, rather than just treating them when they’re ill.

In the latest Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast, Maryland Secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene Joshua Sharfstein, MD, discusses a hospital in Hagerstown, Md., that took charge of the local public school health program, hiring school nurses and more “because it’d be an economic winner for them.” The hospital’s economic incentives were such that, “If they did it well, and helped kids with asthma control their asthma so they didn’t need to go to the emergency room, [the hospital] would save money on ER visits,” Sharfstein explains.

Sharfstein is interviewed by Clinical Scholar Loren Robinson, MD. The video podcast is part of a series of RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcasts, co-produced with Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

The video is republished with permission from the Leonard Davis Institute.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

Physician Compensation Patterns Pose Challenges to Efforts to Incentivize Changes in How Care Is Delivered

Feb 25, 2014, 9:00 AM

Salary is the most common type of compensation for physicians in non-solo practice settings, many of whom are paid through a blend of methods, according to a new American Medical Association (AMA) Policy Research Perspectives report that says it provides a “rare glimpse” into how non-solo physicians are paid.

Just over 53 percent of non-solo physicians reported that all or most of their compensation came from salary, while nearly 32 percent said all or most of their compensation was based on personal productivity. The report points out that this breakdown “suggests that it may be difficult to align practice-level incentives that encourage judicious use of resources with physician-level incentives that do not.”

Ideally, the report says, financial and other incentives would encourage physicians to make the best care decisions possible for patients, providing them “the right care, in the right place, and at the right time,” but current incentives often do not encourage that approach.

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A Year of Dramatic Increase in Insurance Coverage

Jan 27, 2014, 9:00 AM

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2014 marks the start of coverage for those who are newly insured via the health insurance exchanges. In general, healthy behaviors and lifestyle are probably the most important inputs to health, especially for those of us free of serious chronic conditions. But for those of us who are sick, quality health care and access to drugs is crucial for health and happiness. We will soon know to what extent the health insurance exchanges have overcome their implementation problems and have connected previously uninsured Americans to health care.
 
When markets for health insurance work efficiently, they can deliver access to crucial health services to those who need and want them most. Unfortunately, free, unregulated markets for health insurance rarely function efficiently. The market failures in health care have long been noted by economists, most famously by Nobel Prize winner Kenneth Arrow, MA, PhD. In my view, one the most important changes that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) brings with it is an attempt to address and correct market failures via the exchanges.

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RWJF Pioneering Ideas Podcast: Episode 2 | Pitch Day, Payment Reform & Behavior Change

Dec 11, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Please note that this podcast player might not work in some versions of Internet Explorer. Please view this page in another browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. You may also access the episode via SoundCloud.

RWJF's Pioneering Ideas Podcast is on iTunes! Don’t miss an episode—click to subscribe.

Welcome to episode two of our podcast. This time we kick things off with our new Mailbag segment, in which Senior Program Officer Paul Tarini answers questions from listeners (time stamp: 1:12). Next, in a conversation with Assistant Vice President of Research and Evaluation and former Pioneer Team Director Brian Quinn, social scientist, innovator, teacher and recent What’s Next Health guest BJ Fogg talks about the need to help people understand how behavior works so they can be more effective in changing their own behavior (4:34). Then we listen in on RWJF’s first-ever Pitch Day, emceed by the Foundation’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Thomas Goetz, and featuring judges like angel investor Esther Dyson and NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam (8:10). Finally, Senior Program Officer and physician Mike Painter shares a personal story and a plea for getting the human motivators right in health care (16:11). This episode is hosted by program associate (and former TV broadcaster) Christine Nieves.

We hope you enjoy listening, and we hope you learn something; we certainly did. And there’s more to learn: Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below, as well as any questions that you’d like us to answer in a future episode.

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A Connections Checklist: Bringing Health Care and Communities Together

Dec 10, 2013, 1:34 PM, Posted by Hilary Heishman

Cure Violence Community meeting

The conversation is nearly everywhere I go for work lately. More than cost trends, or accountable care organizations, I hear people in both public health and health care circles talking about how we need to be better connected.

Across a variety of health roles, many people are embracing the belief that individuals and the communities we live in will be better off—regarding health outcomes, health care cost, health disparities, corporate productivity, individual quality of life, and so forth—if health care providers, the public health system, and social services are better connected to each other and to the communities in which patients live.

Fortunately, it’s not all talk. In communities across the nation people are trying their best to connect systems to improve the overall health of those who live there, driven by a combination of compassion, pragmatism, pressure, policies, and overall gestalt.

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When it Comes to Health Care, We’ve Been Living in the Land of Oz for Too Long

Sep 6, 2013, 4:30 PM, Posted by Tara Oakman

Cost Report April 2013

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!” 

In some ways, our health care system has traditionally functioned much like the fantastic land of Oz depicted in one of my favorite movies.  Consumers and purchasers are expected to be passive consumers, doing what they are told and paying whatever price is levied based on a high degree of trust and limited information. This model seems increasingly ridiculous. We now face an urgent need to improve the quality and efficiency of our health care system.

But to do that, we need information, a lot of information. Health professionals, purchasers, consumers—basically anyone who comes in contact with health care—need timely, accurate, comprehensive information on cost and quality if they are to make smart decisions. Without such information, not even a wizard could do the trick. But right now, such information is usually unavailable, or, when it is accessible, too often indecipherable. In fact, the Institute of Medicine estimates that $105 billion is wasted every year in the U.S. because of a lack of competition and excessive price variations in health care, and a lack of information on the price of health care services plays a large role in this waste.

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Carrots, Sticks, or Something Else? Motivating Doctors to Transform Health Care

Aug 14, 2013, 2:14 PM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

Craig Sammit Craig Sammit, MD, president and CEO of Dean Health System, and Holly Humphrey, MD, dean for Medical Education at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

An old joke has it that the doctor’s pen is the costliest technology in medicine, since money typically flows where physicians’ prescriptions and other orders decide that it should go. As a result, influencing these decisions is key to achieving the Triple Aim of better health and health care at lower cost.

But what’s more likely to influence doctors: external factors, such as bonuses for improving the quality of care, or internal factors, such as appealing to their sense of altruism or satisfaction with their work?  In other words, carrots, sticks, or something altogether different—what Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive, calls “our innate human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world”?

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RWJF Scholar Alum Discusses Accountable Care Organizations

Apr 30, 2013, 9:00 AM

Elliott Fisher, MD, MPH, a health policy researcher and alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program (1983-1985), was recently named director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. Fisher coined the term “Accountable Care Organization” (ACO). In this Clinical Scholar Health Policy podcast, he discusses the origins of ACOs and the effort to develop them in the nation’s health care system. Watch his interview with RWJF Clinical Scholar Chileshe Nkonde-Price, MD, (2012-2014). The video is republished with permission from the Leonard Davis Institute.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.