Press Release


Bonuses may equal 10 percent raise for top doctors; effort aimed to improve diabetes, cardiac care and care management systems; CMS lauds effort

WASHINGTON; BOSTON; CINCINNATI; LOUISVILLE, KY. - A powerful coalition of physicians, health plans, large employers (see attached) and others today launched the "Bridges to Excellence" program, an effort to tie physician incentive payments to performance. The effort will initially seek to encourage improvements in three areas: diabetes care, cardiovascular care and patient care management systems. The effort—unique in terms of the size of the available incentive payments and the involvement of physicians in its design—will also feature incentives for patients to become more involved in their own health care. Partners Community Healthcare, Inc., the Lahey Clinic and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, all among the nation's most highly regarded medical institutions, helped shape the initiative.

"We need to address some fundamental issues in health care—not least of which is to work toward a common goal of better quality care," said Francois de Brantes, Program Leader, Health Care Initiatives, General Electric, and coordinator of the Bridges to Excellence program. "It's our belief that this approach to physician compensation will improve the quality of care that patients receive and will, ultimately, lower overall costs of care."

Public sector support for the pay-for quality approach and the Bridges to Excellence initiative in particular came from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which also participated in developing the program. "Rewarding physicians for improving the quality of health care they give just makes sense," said Tom Scully, CMS Administrator. "We applaud the efforts of all of the parties, public and private, who are responsible for launching this initiative."

Under the new program, top-performing doctors could see income gains of up to 10 percent in the form of bonuses paid by participating employers. These physicians will also be highlighted in provider directories, helping employees and their families identify doctors with proven outcomes in treating particular illnesses, or whose patient care and support systems are exemplary.

Physicians played an important role in developing the effort and shaping an incentive structure that would appeal to their fellow doctors and spur investments in quality. A lot of physicians would like to invest in information systems to help deliver better care, but insurance payments haven't covered those costs," said Thomas Lee, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Partners Community Healthcare, Inc. "Bridges to Excellence changes the financial picture it makes investing in systems to improve care easier."

Bridges to Excellence is being introduced in three metro areas that are heavily populated by employees of the companies supporting the program. The first initiative, Diabetes Care Link, will be launched in Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Ky. and Boston, Mass. The second, Physician Office Link, will be piloted in Boston. Cardiac Care Link will be introduced late in 2003.

Diabetes Care Link (a program modeled on an existing American Diabetes Association/National Committee for Quality Assurance effort) will provide annual bonus payments to physicians who demonstrate good control of their patients with diabetes. An optional patient reward program is available to encourage employees and family members to take an active role in managing their condition.

The Physician Office Link program will reward physicians for investing in information systems and care management tools to help them provide more customized and integrated care over time, rather than simply responding to a patient's symptoms during office visits.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting the effort with a $330,000 grant.

For more information on the Bridges to Excellence initiative, visit the program's Web site at Coalitions or groups interested in launching the Bridges to Excellence program in other markets, or joining in the current markets, should contact MEDSTAT.

The Bridges to Excellence coalition is a not-for-profit organization created to encourage significant leaps in the quality of care by recognizing and rewarding health care providers who demonstrate that they deliver safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered care. Bridges to Excellence participants include large employers, health plans, the National Committee for Quality Assurance and MEDSTAT, among others. The organizations are united in their shared goal of improving health care quality through measurement, reporting, rewards and education.

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