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January 5, 2017 Guest articles No Comments

Steady Sailing for the Future of Value-based Care
By Joe Guerriero

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Changes are coming for healthcare reform—that is a certainty under President-elect Trump’s incoming administration. However, while some aspects of current legislation may be in question, the future of value-based care remains secure.

The reality is that the accountable care movement has experienced notable growth, and demand for value-based care is not going away. Consider recent statistics published by CMS. The number of ACOs participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) grew from 200 in 2013 to 432 in 2016, now representing nearly 7.8 million beneficiaries. More importantly, early indicators reveal that value-based models work. Average quality measures by MSSP program participants improved by more than 15 percent between 2014 and 2015, and 31 percent generated savings above their minimum rate in 2015.

For many industry stakeholders, the big questions are: “Will the ACA be repealed?” and “How will changes impact current value-based care models?” By all accounts, eliminating every piece of the legislation is unlikely, and the more probable scenario involves keeping what is popular with voters as well as the most effective measures, and tossing the rest.

To date, President-elect Trump has consistently advocated price transparency and greater consumer empowerment in healthcare. As such, cost management and clinical outcomes are expected to remain a focal point of his administration. That means providers must continue preparing for the future of value-based care by leveraging evidence-based tools that deliver the most effective, cost-efficient clinical guidance.

What to Expect Going Forward

While no crystal ball exists that will foretell the future of value-based care, the Trump administration’s agenda will likely pursue a less-regulated approach to alternative payment models. In addition, Trump’s previous policy statements and the cabinet he is assembling suggest that bundled payment expansion and Medicaid reform may take precedence over MSSPs and ACOs. Meanwhile, providers can expect increased scrutiny of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, the arm of CMS that is responsible for assessing the viability of innovative payment and care delivery models. Current political and industry criticism of the program could lead to congressional pursuit of more control, and many insiders expect at least some changes that increase oversight of payment reform decisions.

While the face of value-based care models may change, industry stakeholders — including the American Academy of Family Physicians — consistently assert that implementation of MACRA will continue. Now in effect, MACRA was not only overwhelmingly supported by Congress to address needed payment reform, but also ups the ante on participation in risk-bearing arrangements.

In truth, questions regarding how the new administration will view penalties versus incentives for quality performance are important to consider. While previous programs financially incentivized participation in quality reporting, MACRA is designed to penalize those slow to join the value-based movement. If this trend continues, the stakes for performance improvement will become increasingly heightened. To prepare, providers need to equip themselves with tools to support the efficient delivery of high-quality care. Evidence-based decision support platforms, for example, can help them design the most effective treatment plans in less time. In turn, they can avoid unnecessary care and hospitalizations that increase costs and reduce payment under MACRA and other value-based reimbursement models.

Advancing Evidence-Based Practice

The costly impact of unnecessary care and care variations is well documented, with some estimates pointing to between $158 billion and $226 billion in overtreatment alone, according to a Health Affairs 2012 Health Policy Brief. Recognizing this variation is critical. Providers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of reliable, evidence-based clinical decision support tools in reducing needless variation and increasing care standardization. These tools exist to help physicians and multi-disciplinary clinical teams more accurately and efficiently assess patients and target the most appropriate and effective interventions. Furthermore, clinically validated guidelines help physicians and patients set realistic recovery expectations, building stronger provider-patient partnerships and better overall patient engagement. The result is a faster and more cost-effective return to health.

When shared across the care continuum, point-of-care, evidence-based guidelines empower better care coordination by keeping clinical teams on the same page. Physicians have access to the same clinically validated treatment plans and can review recovery expectations, benchmark progress, and make needed adjustments. Ultimately, care delivery becomes more effective and efficient— the overriding goal of value-based care.

Value-based Care is Here to Stay

There is much hanging in the balance for the healthcare industry as 2017 ushers in a new president, administration, and Congress. In the face of uncertainty, providers can bank on two projections – changes are coming to the ACA and value-based care is here to stay. Thus, the logical response is to stay aware of evolving policy changes and continue preparations for value-based care — especially MACRA. Forward-looking providers are already on this path, recognizing the importance of standardized care and implementing the best evidence-based decision support tools at the point-of-care to guide providers toward higher-quality, cost-effective clinical decisions.

Joe Guerriero is senior vice president of Reed Group’s MDGuidelines in Westminster, CO.


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