The move to paying hospitals and physicians based on value instead of volume is well underway. As programs ultimately designed to offer a global payment for a population (accountable care organizations [ACOs]) or an episode of care (bundled payment) expand, we are left with this paradox: How do we reward physicians for working harder and seeing more patients under a global payment system that encourages physicians and hospitals to do less?
Explore this issue:August 2014
It appears that the existing fee-for-service payment system will need to form the scaffolding of any new, value-based system. Physicians must document the services they provide, leaving a “footprint” that can be recognized and rewarded. Without a record of the volume of services, physicians will have no incentive to see more patients during times of increased demand. This is what we often experience with straight-salary arrangements—physicians question why they should work harder for no additional compensation.
Through the ACO lens, Bruce Landon, professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston, states the challenge in a different way: “The fundamental questions become how ACOs will divide their global budgets and how their physicians and service providers will be reimbursed. Thus, this system for determining who has earned what portion of payments—keeping score—is likely to be crucially important to the success of these new models of care.” (N Engl J Med. 2012;366:393-395).