Why patient engagement is key for bundled payments

Communication and engagement can help independent physicians overcome many of the challenges associated with bundled payment programs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented two bundled payments, Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI – a voluntary bundled payment program) and Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR – a mandatory bundled payment program). These programs are part of the CMS move toward value-based care and require physicians to more proactively plan and follow up on their patients’ care.

Rather than reward and reimburse independent physicians for the quantity of patient visits, which can also create fragmented plans that are not coordinated between providers, CMS is moving toward a focus on the quality of a patient’s total care. Towards this end, “bundled payments can align incentives for providers – hospitals, post-acute care providers, physicians, and other practitioners – allowing them to work closely together across all specialties and settings.”

Many independent physicians have expressed their concerns about how to make the bundled payment programs work for their practices. The key is engaging patients, which has the added benefit of improved outcomes for the patient, and maintaining communication with the patient and other providers during the entire care episode.

Proactively and creatively engaging with the patient throughout the care process can help the independent physician plan for the patient’s needs more effectively and more efficiently. Using technology such as electronic health records (EHRs) can also assist the physician in understanding the patient’s complete medical history, coordinating with other physicians and healthcare facilities treating that patient, and communicating with the patient before and after visits.

As a recent MedCity News article points out, “there are countless interaction points where providers can engage patients in their own care to lower costs, improve outcomes, and enhance experiences.” Patient engagement is the key for independent physicians’ success with the bundled payment programs.