Health clinics? study funded

By By Deborah Rafferty

By Deborah Rafferty

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave 10 University Health Care Community clinics monetary incentives last year for participating in a four-year study. The study is designed to track the quality of care physicians give to patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and heart failure.

“The incentives are not used to get the physicians to do their job,” said Annie Mervis, the clinics’ general manager. “It’s more to recognize their good work and that they are appreciated.”

During the first year of the study, which ran from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, the community clinics recorded data and sent the information to CMS to act as references for improvement during the following years.

Now in the third year of the study, the clinics are in the process of gathering data from the previous year and will submit it in January. Mervis said she does not expect to receive the money from the second stage of the study until next fall, as CMS seems to be running a year behind.

CMS gave the nine clinics that have reported their data a base incentive totaling $140,000. The clinics will receive more money based on quality of care and how much they have improved throughout the following year, Mervis said. The money is given directly to the practices, not the doctors, and the clinics are discussing how their money will be distributed.

“We’d like to reward the teams and reinvest some of the money back into the practice,” Mervis said.

As one such effort to help the doctors give patients better quality care, the clinics have installed electronic health records in their practices. The records give physicians better access to patient records and will alert them as to when patients are due for their next screening.

U Community clinics are also focusing on not just giving patients better care, but also helping them better themselves. The incentives have nudged clinics to approach patient care in a new way8212;as a whole, not just as individuals. The clinics offer patients the chance to attend appointments with other patients.

Mervis said patients enjoy interacting with other patients because it acts as a support system and gives them a different perspective and new ideas on how to deal with their disease.

Previously, there was a section for patients with one chronic disease and another section for a different disease, she said. This new system gives structure and foundation to uniting the different sections of quality care and allows physicians to view patients’ records as a whole.

Utah is one of four states participating in the study, along with California, Massachusetts and Arkansas.