In a remarkable recent interview, Donald Berwick MD, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), eloquently described his vision of value-based health care.
Paying for value is an incentive…The underlying idea of improvement is that American health care, historically built in fragments, often cannot achieve for patients what it really wants to achieve…Health delivery system reform refers to really reconfiguring care into much more seamless coordinated-care operations so that people, especially those with chronic illnesses, experience continuity of care over time and space.
So when patients come home from the hospital, there is a smooth handoff, and all the necessary information follows them. When they are seeing a specialist, that specialist is coordinating care with their primary care doctor.
This description probably resonates with most health care professionals as a better approach than the current paradigm’s fragmentation and lack of continuity of care. But as with many things in health care, it won’t be easy getting to a value-based health care approach in Medicare and Medicaid. Despite wide acknowledgement that fee-for-service perpetuates our health system’s most undesirable characteristics, the mainstream of American health care seems stuck. One wonders whether CMS can rise above the special interest lobbying, get beyond the interminable pilots and decisively act on payment reform with the conviction required to help save health care from itself.
Still, the idea of value-based reimbursement begs questions. What payment methodology will incentivize the best quality and most efficient care? What path can take us there?