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March 23, 2012

Pay For Performance and HCAHPS

"There's nothing better at incenting than money."

Setting aside for a moment the mangling of the English language in this quote (see the full article on HCAHPS and P4P), we can probably agree that financial incentives are often a reasonable way to evoke desired behavior change.

At the moment, we're talking about providing care in a way that evokes favorable responses by patients on the HCAHPS questionnaires. Hospitals that have been attentive to patient satisfaction matters -- as measured by HCAHPS -- will be the winners; others, the losers, in the Medicare zero-sum-game of value-based hospital reimbursement.

We love, love, love metrics. We think that if we dole out financial rewards based on metrics, then health care will be improved. So we've developed about 1,000 quality measures (see National Quality Forum (NQF) measure list), and we ask providers to track performance on too many of them, on the theory that you cannot manage what you do not measure -- an aphorism with truth to it, but folks, we have run amok with measures.

Since we don't track all 1,000 all at once, we end up focusing on the dozen or so metrics in front of us at any given time, and other things fall off the table. 

I would love to see six or eight ur-measures that are predictive of quality across a broad spectrum of issues. I've had the opportunity to discuss this and related P4P issues with some leaders in the field, and offer for your listening (or reading) pleasure (well, OK, it's subjective ...) interviews I've done with Leah Binder of the Leapfrog Group, Don Berwick before he went to work for Uncle Sam and Cyndy Nayer & Wayne Burton of the Center for Health Value Innovation.

So what do you think about pay for performance?

What works? What doesn't?

If you were king/queen of P4P, what would you do?

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting



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