Friday, August 1, 2008


Quote of the day:
The squeaking wheel doesn't always get the grease. Sometimes it gets replaced. - Vic Gold

Greg Scandlen (Consumers for Health Care Choices) extracted some facts from Health Affairs that bears some scrutiny.

Pay for Performance is a buzz word that has CMS and other payors  brainwashing and extorting providers with either incentives or negative rewards for implementing a largely unproven scheme.

Health Affairs elaborates:

Pay for Performance Doesn't Work


R&CHealth Affairs has published an important new study on Pay For Performance (P4P) that concludes it has had virtually no impact on physician practice. That is not to say physician practice isn't improving with time, but P4P programs have little to do with it.

The study looks at 5,350 physicians in 154 physician groups in Massachusetts from 2001 through 2003. Overall about half of these physicians were in P4P programs established by five health plans that cover four million enrollees in that state. The plans reported information about physician compliance with thirteen measures of performance established by the National Committee for Quality Assurance known as HEDIS measures. It compared physicians who were "highly incentivized" by P4P bonuses to physicians who were not involved in P4P programs.

This e-mail program doesn't allow for complex tables, so it is hard to show the information graphically, but here are some highlights -

Breast Cancer Screening: "Highly Incentivized" Physicians (we'll call them HIP below) complied with HEDIS measures 82% of the time in 2001 and 82% in 2003, while the comparison group (call them non-HIP) complied 83% in 2001 and 84% in 2003.
Cervical Cancer Screening: HIP -- 84% in 2001, 86% in 2003; Non-HIP -- 84% in 2001, 86% in 2003.
Chlamydia Screening ages 16 - 20: HIP -- 31% in 2001, 41% in 2003; Non-HIP -- 30% in 2001, 39% in 2003.
Chlamydia Screening ages 21 - 26: HIP -- 31% in 2001, 36% in 2003; Non-HIP - 34% in 2001, 39% in 2003.
Diabetes Care, eye exams: HIP -- 51% in 2001, 54% in 2003; Non-HIP - 52% 9in 2001, 56% in 2003.
Diabetes Care, HbA1c tests: HIP - 81% in 2001, 85% in 2003; Non-HIP - 81% in 2001, 87% in 2003.
Diabetes Care, LDL-C screen: HIP - 79% in 2001, 88% in 2003; Non-HIP - 80% in 2001, 89% in 2003.
Well-Child, age 3 - 6: HIP - 81% in 2001, 86% in 2003; Non-HIP - 87% in 2001, 90% in 2003.
Well-Child, adolescents: HIP - 34% in 2001, 40% in 2003; Non-HIP - 57% in 2001, 62% in 2003.

Leaving aside the question about whether any of this measures anything meaningful - other than marking off boxes on a check list (notice there is nothing here about actually listening to your patient, or finding and treating anything that might be wrong, or persuading the patient to change behavior), what else does it show us?

Many athletes are paid for performance, and their are also amateurs who are not


It shows us that the much-vaunted pay-for-performance system is useless, not withstanding the fact that private payers, Medicare, and the presidential candidates all promise that such programs will save the health care system. In fact, on many measures the "non-incentivized" physicians improved more than those who were "highly incentivized." Golly, is it possible that physicians actually pay attention to the emerging literature and freely change their practices in the interests of good patient care? Oh, no, that can't be it.

Health Affairs P4P Study.

An interesting take from a  consumer advocate, that is very pro-physician.

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