Hospital executives have a tough balancing act regarding the transition to value-based payment models. While the industry is steadily moving toward this new framework, many providers and services still operate on the old fee-for-service model, which is becoming more and more obsolete. That means C-suite leadership has to make the switch to value a high priority for their organizations.
They're under tremendous pressure these days. There's been a significant market shift. Providers and their associated patient panels -- a list of patients assigned to each care team in the practice -- are shifting toward government business, and government business has a more pronounced focus on value-based care.
According to Jeff Smith, senior vice president of U.S. markets at Lumeris, the move to value has been accelerated by a shift in payer mix away from commercial and more toward Medicare, which yields lower margins. And the commercial rates providers have been receiving are on the downswing.
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"Underlying their business model today, health systems have to profitably manage their fee-for-service business while making this transition to value," Smith said. "It's like having one foot on the dock and one in the canoe. They often don't have the understanding or expertise to make that strategic shift and successfully move toward value. It's a new frontier for many of these providers."
What providers need, said Smith, is more robust alignment with their delivery system around the new model. It's about having an engaged, aligned network that focuses not just on the patient in front of them, but on an entire population.
"It really is an enterprise-wide change management initiative. This the kind of transition that careers are built on," Smith said. "Some of the things they need to avoid are embarking on this journey with a lack of, I would say, panel density, and aligned incentives with their physician network. It's problematic if this is nothing more than a nuisance. It really has to be a strategic focus."
An organization also has to have the right governance and leadership in place, he said. Even though something worked under the old model, it's a mistake to assume that it will naturally evolve and adapt to the new. A successful transition requires significant practice transformation.
All that, and an organization still has to maintain a high standard of care. That's where advanced analytics come in.
"It really requires an understanding of where the opportunities are," Smith said, "and that's driven by advanced analytics and practical insights, and where to apply their investments to get the maximum return. They also need to have a really strong plan in governance, and this really requires support from the C-suite. It has to start with the CEO."
Because every hospital, health system and physician practice is different, a good place to begin is with a market assessment of provider and business opportunity, which can show how to align strategies around a blueprint for successful profitability. Alignment truly is a key component of success, as everyone needs to be on the same page, from the CEO down to the physicians delivering care.
And time is of the essence. Smith expects the journey to value to be near-complete within about three years.
"The transition has been remarkable to me," he said. "The amount of change we're seeing year over year is remarkable. It was primarily led by these government programs, but the private payers have really adopted a lot of these changes. There are significant changes in the payer community in general, and more to come."