Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Electronic Medical Records - EMRs and Pay For Performance (P4P)
A Response to One of My Blogs
One of the joys of blogging is the comments and dialogue you have with fellow bloggers. In one of my recent blogs, July 15, “Doctors Go Haywire with EMRs, A Critic Says,” I received the following comment from Vijay Goel, MD, a Los Angeles-based management consultant and author of www.consumerfocusedcare. blogspot.com.
“I really like the framework you used of force vs. persuasion. I think too many in the health policy field rely on force-- leaving us with a group of highly talented and dedicated, yet frustrated and demoralized group of physicians.
Where I would like to hear more is the purpose for physicians offering EMRs. There have been some studies where offices using EMR have been less effective than those without.
Ultimately, we should incent the outcome desired (i.e., better outcomes for diabetes care, better sugar levels, etc) over the process we think could help get us there-- and show how proper use of the desired process helps to achieve the desired outcome.
Having been a consultant for many Fortune 500 companies (and smaller ones), I fear that with process metrics people focus on form, not function-- installing an EMR becomes more important than designing a great clinical pathway to engage diabetics-- which takes us only partially toward the outcome we hope to achieve.
I discuss this on my blog: http://consumerfocusedcare.blogspot.com”
Here’s what Dr. Goel said in his blog:
Metrics: Be Careful What You Measure For--You Just Might Get It
“Quality is a buzzword in medicine today--unfortunately, its application is anything but a high-quality, well-designed approach.
There are many reasons why quality is hard, and many reasons why defining quality well may not be fair to existing players who are trying hard to do the right thing. In settings like these, there is no one right approach that fits everyone. Ironically, by having quality efforts led by the government (P4P) and major payers, we're less likely to get it right than by having a number of smaller players seek to play objective, third party roles that maximize benefits for specific constituents.”
”Structurally, quality is hard because:
1.There are no established benchmarks
2.The only metrics that matter--morbidity, mortality, and patient experience-- are complicated and seem largely uncontrollable
3.There is significant money at stake for the "chosen"
4.Politically, no doctor believes they are inferior
5.Society favors heroic intervention over statistically avoided event”
“I'll deal with the first 2 below:
”The medical profession likes to think that all of its practitioners are better than average (of course a statistical anomaly). While licensing and training make all quite good, some will be better than others-- and recent evidence shows there is a strong correlation to better quality with a minimum volume of procedures done, by hospitals and by surgeon. There is also strong evidence that physicians differ significantly in rates of treatments recommended, with few added benefits to societal health. Where benchmarks have been applied and evidence of high and low performers made transparent (not the case in recent hospital mortality rankings), low performers quickly adjusted to close the gap with high performers (see NY state cardiac surgery rankings)”
”There are two types of metrics, process and outcome metrics. Process metrics are seen as means of getting to desired results, with outcome metrics being the desired results. Outcome metrics are the things that really matter-- in medicine this would be rates of morbidity and mortality, with good patient experience also potentially a desired outcome.
The issue we have with quality reporting today is that most of the metrics available focus on process: did they use an EMR, did they give pill X in Y time, did they check body part A for B sign. While process is important, process metrics often forget about context and they forget that there are many roads to the end-goal. Unfortunately, process can only incorporate disease features we think we understand-- and as with drug-eluting stents, we may be maximizing to solve intermediate steps but creating a worse end outcome.”
”Outcome metrics, while politically less viable (everyone wants a reason why they're not #1--and will complain they need to stop seeing sick patients), are truly measures ensuring that treatments work as well as promised. Risk adjustment will never be perfect and segmentation will always be a rough estimation. This is where a single approach linked to payment will get tremendous pushback, whereas a few third party approaches (e.g., Morningstar for financial products) can be triangulated to determine appropriate risks and risk-payments. At the same time, spending a ton of resources on sick people who die soon is ultimately not a great use of society's funds if its not benefiting research-- or coming out of that individual's own wallet (yes, its not fair to the poor--and nothing else in life is fair to the poor either).”
”Outcome metrics also seem most out of the hands of providers. However, in the broader sense, providers have done a poor job of managing longer term adherence to therapy and some outcome metrics (blood pressure, sugar levels) can reflect those changes-- and have been linked to significant improvement in outcomes. Perhaps the issue isn't that physicians aren't able to control those metrics, but that we've been asking them to perform instant miracles instead of helping patients understand and control their disease over time.”
Three Questions Hovering Over P4P
Dr. Goel’s comments raises three questions in minds of P4P critics:
1) Should hospitals and physicians be reimbursed for what they should be doing anyway? That, of course, is a political question, viz, “Is pay-for-performance too much of a good thing?’
2)Is P4P worth the price it exacts from the health system? That’s an economic question. In the United Kingdom, since 2004, the national practice of awarding bonuses to practitioners for meeting “quality indicators, “ has worked in meeting those indicators, but in the process it has driven the national health system deeply into debt.
3) Does P4P, until now based mostly on rewards for meeting “process metrics” result in better outcomes in terms of lower mortality, less morbidity, and better patient experience. To date, that remains an unanswerable managerial, genetic, and cultural question because it’s a long-term question, because some of these factors are uncontrollable, and because it may be beyond the power of “ outcome metrics,” now in its infancy, to measure precisely.
1.S. Campbell and Others, “Quality of Primary Care in England with the Introduction of Pay for Performance,” New England Journal of Medicine, July 12, 2007.
2.R. Galvin, “Pay-for-Performance: Too Much of a Good Thing? A Conversation with Martin Roland,” Health Affairs, 2006:25:w412-w419.
3.GP Pay Raise “Was Mistake,” BBC News, June 21, 2007.
4.A. Epstein, “Pay for Performance at the Tipping Point, New England Journal of Medicine, February 1, 2007.