HHS launches $840M in new IT incentives

Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative aims to drive better quality, more coordination
By Mike Miliard
03:13 PM
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Wth basic health IT now near-ubiquitous across healthcare, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has announced substantial new funding meant to help practices put that technology to work delivering value-based care.

[See also: CMS offers new IT investments for ACOs ]

The $840 million Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative will roll out over the next four years in support of some 150,000 clinicians nationwide. HHS sees the incentive as a way to help these physicians to team with their peers in a trend away from fee-for-service and toweard value-based, patient-centered care.

Successful applicants – group practices, healthcare systems, medical provider associations – will show progress toward measurable goals: improving clinical outcomes, reducing unnecessary testing, achieving cost savings and avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations.

[See also: HHS allots $241M for state insurance exchange IT]

Among the strategies meant to drive those changes, according to HHS: Using electronic health records on a daily basis to examine data on quality and efficiency; expanding the number of ways patients are able communicate with their care teams; improving the coordination of patient care by primary care providers, specialists and the broader medical community.

"The administration is partnering with clinicians to find better ways to deliver care, pay providers and distribute information to improve the quality of care we receive and spend our nation's dollars more wisely," said Secretary Burwell, in a press statement. "We all have a stake in achieving these goals and delivering for patients, providers and taxpayers alike."

Building upon federal intitiatives such as the Quality Improvement Organization Program, Partnership for Patients with Hospital Engagement Networks and accountable care organizations, this project will provide opportunities for participating clinicians to collaborate and disseminate information, according to HHS. Through a "multi-pronged approach to technical assistance," it hopes to identify existing care delivery models that work – and quickly spur other providers to adopt them.

"This model will support and build partnerships with doctors and other clinicians across the country to provide better care to their patients," said Patrick Conway, MD, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services, in a press statement.

CMS' role

Toward its goal of being "collaborative partner" in helping clinicians "coordinate care and improve patient outcomes," CMS will be pursuing a two-pronged approach as part of this initiative.

First, through so-called Practice Transformation Networks, CMS will award cooperative agreements to group practices, health systems and other providers that join together to serve as trusted partners in providing clinician practices with quality improvement expertise, best practices, coaching and assistance.

These practices have successfully achieved measurable improvements in care by implementing electronic health records, coordinating among patients and their families, and performing timely monitoring and interventions of high-risk patients to prevent unnecessary hospitalization and readmissions, officials note.

Practice transformation networks will work with a diverse range of practices, including those in rural communities and those that provide care for the medically underserved.

Second, via its support and alignment networks, CMS will award cooperative agreements to networks formed by medical professional associations and others who would align their memberships, communication channels, continuing medical education credits and other work to support practice transformation networks and clinician practices.

These support and alignment networks would create an infrastructure to help identify evidence-based practices and policies and disseminate them nationwide, in a scalable, sustainable approach to improved care delivery.

By participating in the initiative, practices will be able to receive the technical assistance and peer-level support they need to deliver care in a patient-centric and efficient manner, officials say, which is increasingly being demanded by payers and purchasers as part of a transformed care delivery system.