Provider Networks’ Role in Expanding Patient Choice

Guest post by Cheri Bankston, RN, MSN, director of clinical advisory services, Curaspan.

Cheri Bankston
Cheri Bankston

When determining a discharge plan, hospitals must provide a list of home health agencies (HHAs) or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) that are available to care for the patient; this comes as part of the Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for Discharge Planning. In the case of a HHA, the provider must be able to serve the patient in the area where the patient resides, or in the case of a SNF, the area requested by the patient.

Acute care providers have been struggling on how to set up a high quality provider network to support patient choice as we move from volume to value. Provider networks aim to gather more information to assist beneficiaries with selecting a high-quality post-acute provider. CMS has not outlined any specific criterion that deems a provider “high quality,” but the end goal is to provide the patient more information on quality performance and resource use at the time they are making a decision. Through the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) Star Rating program, discharge planners or case managers working for hospitals are able to highlight those provider networks that will best fit the needs of the patient. The networks are able to counsel patients about their available choices, while more importantly upholding the patient’s right to choose.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s value-based purchasing initiative, hospitals are at financial risk for the outcomes of care its patients receive from post-acute care providers, leading hospitals to work towards establishing high-quality provider networks. For many, upholding the standard of Medicare policy – patient freedom of choice – is challenged by potential financial incentives and penalties for the bottom line – the quality of care provided to the patient after discharge impacts the reimbursement levels for hospitals and ACOs. Although provider networks may appear to narrow patient choice, they actually create a set of higher quality post-acute providers that improve patient outcomes without impeding access to care.

Payers have been using “provider networks” for years, but being applied to hospitals is a brand new concept. An ACO’s success depends on using a provider network that has a demonstrated history of high quality of care outcomes. For example, SNFs that have a high rate of patients going to emergency rooms and not being admitted must be evaluated to determine the variance from other providers with the same level of care and fewer emergency room visits. Quality outcomes and patient satisfaction are going to drive the definition of provider networks.

Key Takeaways:

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MACRA Anticipation: What a Delay Might Suggest

Guest post by Cheri Bankston, director of clinical advisory services, Curaspan.

Cheri Bankston
Cheri Bankston

As physicians across large and small practices struggle to prepare for the many payment reforms under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt recently suggested that MACRA could be delayed from its intended Jan. 1, 2017, start date. He also proposed that reporting requirements may be adjusted to ease the burdens on physicians. For example, data and measurements could be potentially submitted through an automated method.

MACRA is expected to greatly transform how Medicare pays for physicians and other clinicians who participate in the fee-for-service program. Under MACRA, payment changes will be split into a two-track system for Medicare reimbursement:

Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) is for providers who operate using fee-for-service reimbursements. This new program combines parts of the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), the Value Modifier (VM), and the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) incentive program into one single program for participants.

Alternate Payment Model (APM) is for physicians who take on a significant caseload of patients. New payment models enable health care providers to be paid by Medicare. From 2019 to 2024, CMS may pay some participating health care providers a lump sum incentive payment.

How This May Impact You

Working with physicians and understanding their business model is the core of transition management, especially for physicians who are providing care to patients in the Fee-for-Service program. With a deeper understanding, it is easier to foster a more collaborative and effective relationship. Hospitals have been paid a lump sum since the early ‘80s, but it is important to recognize that some physicians and physician groups do have patients enrolled in bundled payment models and others who are not. So how important is it for case managers to know how a physician is paid?  For a case manager to properly perform their job, they must know how the business of health care functions.

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Provider Networks’ Role in Expanding Patient Choice

Guest post by Cheri Bankston, RN, MSN, director of clinical advisory services, Curaspan.

Cheri Bankston
Cheri Bankston

When determining a discharge plan, hospitals must provide a list of home health agencies (HHAs) or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) that are available to care for the patient; this comes as part of the Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for Discharge Planning. In the case of a HHA, the provider must be able to serve the patient in the area where the patient resides, or in the case of a SNF, the area requested by the patient.

Acute care providers have been struggling on how to set up a high-quality provider network to support patient choice as we move from volume to value. Provider networks aim to gather more information to assist beneficiaries with selecting a high-quality post-acute provider. CMS has not outlined any specific criterion that deems a provider “high quality,” but the end goal is to provide the patient more information on quality performance and resource use at the time they are making a decision Through the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) Star Rating program, discharge planners or case managers working for hospitals are able to highlight those provider networks that will best fit the needs of the patient. The networks are able to counsel patients about their available choices, while more importantly upholding the patient’s right to choose.

Under the Affordable Care Act’s value-based purchasing initiative, hospitals are at financial risk for the outcomes of care its patients receive from post-acute care providers, leading hospitals to work towards establishing high-quality provider networks. For many, upholding the standard of Medicare policy – patient freedom of choice – is challenged by potential financial incentives and penalties for the bottom line – the quality of care provided to the patient after discharge impacts the reimbursement levels for hospitals and ACOs. Although provider networks may appear to narrow patient choice, they actually create a set of higher quality post-acute providers that improve patient outcomes without impeding access to care.

Payers have been using “provider networks” for years, but being applied to hospitals is a brand new concept. An ACO’s success depends on using a provider network that has a demonstrated history of high quality of care outcomes. For example, SNFs that have a high rate of patients going to emergency rooms and not being admitted must be evaluated to determine the variance from other providers with the same level of care and fewer emergency room visits. Quality outcomes and patient satisfaction are going to drive the definition of provider networks.

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Recent Updates Give Home Health Agencies the Star Treatment

By Jackie Birmingham, RN, MS, vice president, emeritus, of clinical leadership, Curaspan.

Jackie Birmingham
Jackie Birmingham

The Affordable Care Act calls for provider quality to be publicly reported and widely shared. As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) extended star ratings to home health agencies (HHAs) on Home Health Compare (HHC) in 2015 to provide home health care beneficiaries with a summary quality measure in an accessible format.

By supporting consumer choice and encouraging provider quality improvement, public reporting will remain a pillar for improving healthcare quality. Currently, CMS reports 27 process, outcome and patient experience of care quality measures on the HHC website to equip patients and their families with the right tools to make choices about home healthcare.

Calculating the Two Types of Star Ratings

1) The Quality of Patient Care Star Rating – This rating probes nine specific evidence-based process and outcomes measures for each home health agency such as timely initiation of care, improvement in patients’ functional status and hospital readmissions.  The measures are calculated into a composite score and star rating, which are typically calculated on a quarterly basis and include:

2) Patient Survey Star Ratings –These ratings incorporate the patient experience of care measures based on Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS). These surveys reflect patients’ views on a variety of issues including whether the staff checked patients’ prescriptions for side-effects and properly explained dosing instructions.

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HIMSS15 Trade Show Vendor Highlight: Curaspan

In this series, we are featuring some of the thousands of vendors who will be participating in the HIMSS15 conference and trade show. Through it, we hope to offer readers a closer look at some of the solution providers who will either be in attendance – with a booth showcasing and displaying key products and offerings – or that will have a presence of some kind at the show – key executives in attendance or presenting, for example.

Hopefully this series will give you a bit more useful information about the companies that help make this event, and the industry as a whole, so exciting.

Elevator Pitch

CuraspanCuraspan offers effective and efficient solutions to help automate and standardize the care transition process, ultimately improving quality of care and financial outcomes through the use of care transition software.

About Statement

Curaspan is a provider of patient-transition solutions that help the top healthcare providers nationwide manage all aspects of transition planning. Its best-in-breed solutions automate transition of care workflows to create efficiencies and reduce process variation across networks of providers. With a secure platform for collaboration between providers and the analytics necessary to optimize performance, Curaspan’s solutions are the foundation for initiatives like ACOs, HIEs, value-based purchasing and other evolving models of care and reimbursement.

Founder’s Story

Curaspan started with a broken hip. When co-founder Tom Ferry’s wife’s grandmother broke her hip, the family quickly discovered that managing the transition from the hospital to a nursing home was far more difficult than anticipated. An experienced banking industry executive, Tom decided to create software to facilitate the process by automating the most laborious aspects—referring to the model as the “Travelocity for healthcare transitions,” Tom founded Curaspan in 1999. By 2001, Curaspan was the first company in the industry to automate the patient transition process and, as of this year, the company handles more than 20 percent of discharges from U.S. hospitals.

Services and Products Offered

Curaspan offers the following services:

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