When a team works well together, the members collectively accomplish more than any of the individuals could have accomplished alone. Certainly we have proven that adage true in healthcare as can be seen with the success of integrated delivery systems, Independent Physician Associations (IPAs), and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).
As health plans continue adapting to the growing influence of clinical quality on their provider network operations, building an effective team with your providers has never been more important.
But, factor in the necessities of compensating members of the team for their role, of each side meeting its profit targets, and the competing priorities faced by often short-staffed offices, it should come as no surprise many health plan staff members and providers are left wondering how to make it happen.
How do we as a health plan balance the range of providers in our network? How can we ensure the employed doctor with a large integrated delivery system has his/her needs met while at the same time engaging the single-office practitioner and ensuring his/her goals are met?
Meeting the needs for each of these scenarios and others starts with how well defined our provider incentive programs are. Do they adequately support the clinical and financial goals of the plan and the provider? Have we built an incentive program that has achievable and actionable benchmarks?
Whether your providers are still fee-for-service (FFS) or at full percentage of premium risk, a few building blocks will ensure success:
- Healthcare Is Local: Have we done our benchmarking for incentive programs at the local/regional level to ensure we are measuring apples to apples and taken into account the local practice of medicine?
- Prioritization: Ensure Clinical, Risk Adjustment, Star Ratings, Claims, and Network Operations are all collaborating and prioritizing their “asks” of the providers and working together to ensure the needs of the providers are met.
- Education, Education, Education: By arming your leaders with the education necessary to purchase the best reporting tools, they are able to develop the goals and framework necessary for the frontline staff to educate and respond to providers.
- Support ICD-10 Effective Implementation: If the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) predictions hold true, denial rates and outstanding receivables are likely to increase during the conversion. Despite testing and readiness efforts, it’s entirely possible some providers may not be staffed or prepared to mitigate technology-related problems among their payers or to weather the longer-term reduced productivity of their coding staff. Before your providers can invest additional energy into documentation for chronic conditions and quality priorities, they’ve got to keep the cash flowing
- Data Validation Reviews: Data integrity starts with collecting and configuring the provider data at the start of the contracting and credentialing process and becomes critical for downstream health plan operations. For example, the inclusion of an incentive program for achieving data accuracy, timeliness, and integrity is a critical element in your risk adjustment work plan. Offering incentives for providers to achieve and maintain 95% coding accuracy on all diagnoses, meaning 95% of the diagnoses submitted by the provider that can be substantiated in the medical record, subject to a random validation review, can often become a path to shifting providers to more risk-based contracting. However, if your provider data is not correct or complete, the plan or its vendor can spend more time trying to find a provider than validate results.
- Focus on Actionability: Health plans often provide catalogs of reports each month showing providers numerous views of their panels and forget providers are taught evidence-based medicine and how to care for patients, not administrative functions. By telling providers to improve care, we can make them vulnerable and defensive. By collaborating to improve processes and coordination for better patient satisfaction and outcomes, we can let the providers be providers.
- Continuous Measurement, Re-Evaluation and Reward: While we naturally monitor our outcomes and re-evaluate our processes, we sometimes forget to reward ourselves for a job well done. We can build in contractual provider incentives, but peer recognition and a “thank you” are often simple but overlooked motivators.
In summary, there is no one straight line to navigate the path from FFS to pay for performance to risk for the plan or the provider, but there is one way to ensure success on that path — collaboration between the plan and the providers. By breaking down the silos and barriers, being transparent in our actions, and reporting, we can build the trust needed to ensure we are not “checking the boxes” on the incentive plan but rather seeing the success in better patient outcomes and lower expenditures.
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