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Employers Reward Family Physicians for Best Practices

By Stephen Miller  2/8/2008

A coalition of employers and health plans will reward family physicians who create "medical homes" for patients, especially those with chronic conditions, using top-level care systems. Doctors can receive an annual bonus payment of $125 for each patient covered by a participating employer, with a suggested maximum yearly incentive of $100,000.

In January 2008 Bridges to Excellence (BTE), a nonprofit coalition including General Electric, IBM and Verizon Communications, launched the BTE Medical Home program, its latest and most far-reaching effort to provide physicians with financial incentives for adopting specified quality care measures. The initiative will reward family doctors who:

Practice evidence-based guidelines.

Use appropriate health information technology.

Demonstrate the use of “best practices” while being accountable for the quality and value of care.

“Our research shows that patients who are well taken care of cost less,” said Francois de Brantes, CEO of Bridges to Excellence. “The average potential savings per covered life would be approximately $250 a year.”

Family physicians who achieve a Level 2 or Level 3 in BTE’s Physician Office Link (POL) program, as well as a Level 2 in two other BTE programs—Diabetes Care Link, Cardiac Care Link or Spine Care Link—will achieve BTE Medical Home recognition. Other ways for physicians to be recognized under BTE’s POL program are described in detail on the Bridges to Excellence web site.

The initiative joins existing BTE programs that identify and reward top-quality medical care providers (see the SHRM Online article Purchasing Health Care for Value--and Performance.) In 2007, the coalition paid out roughly $10 million in bonuses to doctors in the 18 states where it is active. A growing number of health insurers and the federal Medicare program also are increasingly rewarding physicians with bonuses for adopting measures aimed at raising health care quality and lowering costs.

More insurers are rewarding physicians
for adopting measures that seek to
raise quality and lower costs.


Finding a 'Medical Home'

A key aim of the BTE Medical Home program is to transform the traditional primary care doctor’s office into a central point for Americans to organize and coordinate their health care. "The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) believes everyone should have a personal 'medical home'—a family physician who serves as the focal point through which they receive acute, chronic and preventive medical services,” said Jim King, AAFP's president. “BTE’s efforts to support the medical home can significantly boost the growing momentum of this patient-centered model of care.”

Adds National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) President Margaret E. O’Kane, “For patients, a medical home can potentially be the difference between a series of episodic office visits and an ongoing two-way relationship with their physician.”

Stephen Miller is manager of SHRM Online's Compensation & Benefits Focus Area.

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