Press Release


New effort to help doctors fund IT investments; physicians in New York's Capital District now eligible; first reward checks issued in Boston

WASHINGTON. - The nation's largest employer-sponsored effort to reward physicians for delivering high-quality care today added a new incentive program and a new city to the year-old initiative. The Bridges to Excellence coalition introduced the Physician Office Link (POL) program, which unlike the existing program focused on diabetes care. POL offers doctors an annual bonus payment for adopting information technology (IT) systems to help manage and improve patient care within their practices.

BTE also made its entire program, including Cardiac Care Link for the first time, available to physicians in New York's Capital District region and rewarded participating physicians in Boston with their first bonus payments.

BTE was created last year to recognize and reward physicians who provide high quality care and/or adopt systems that promote quality. The coalition includes several national large employers such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Verizon, United Parcel Service and Ford. In addition to Boston and New York's Capital District, participating regions include Cincinnati, Oh and Louisville, Ky.

Physician Office Link
The Physician Office Link program encourages physicians to adopt the type of technology-based care management systems recommended by the Institute of Medicine in its 2001 report: Crossing the Quality Chasm. A wide range of systems and activities might help a physician qualify for annual rewards. Simple patient registries, patient education programs, care management systems and electronic medical records are among the many proven strategies for improving care that the POL effort seeks to promote. President Bush and leaders of Congress recently called for a nationwide push for electronic medical records, and the private sector is strongly supporting this call to action.

"Physicians who use information technology in their offices consistently tell us how much easier it is to deliver the highest quality, most efficient care," said Francois de Brantes, Program Leader for GE's Corporate Health Care Initiatives, and leader of the BTE effort. "Unfortunately, very few practices have an environment that is "wired" because it can be cost-prohibitive to switch over to technology-based management systems. Through Physician Office Link, Bridges to Excellence wants to help doctors invest in their practices by sharing the savings that come from technology upgrades that support better care."

Other private sector initiatives like the California health plan-led P4P effort are similarly geared toward encouraging physicians to adopt up-to-date information technology.

To qualify for POL incentives, physicians must demonstrate that they have implemented certain electronic systems for managing care in their practice for all of their patients. The annual bonus per patient is up to $50, which is equivalent to about half of the expected savings derived from the use of such systems. A recent report published by eHealthInitiative in Washington D.C. showed that the use of electronic tools to order prescriptions, lab and radiology tests would not only save lives, but billions of dollars. Bridges to Excellence estimates that the short-term savings achieved by adopting these IT systems are about 4% to 5% of the total cost of care-and that the improvement in the quality of care will be even more significant.

The pressing need to improve medical information technology is among the most talked about issues in medicine today. About 90 percent of the transactions in health care still involve paper, which complicates critical activities ranging from checking on drug interactions to retrieving medical histories to looking at recurring illnesses or symptoms that may reveal a different diagnosis or an alternate approach to care. In an integrated, wired environment, these actions would become routine.

"The best tool a doctor has for improving his or her effectiveness is a computer," said Dale Whitney, Corporate Health Care Manager, United Parcel Service." A big part of good medicine today involves efficiently managing data, but doctors are really overqualified for that sort of work. It's just inefficient for a medical school graduate to pull files, look for trends and send out reminders. Fortunately, computers love that kind of work-Physician Office Link will help make sure that computers are the ones doing it."

In Boston: First Checks Issued
This month, the first round of both Physician Office Link and Diabetes Care Link (DCL) award checks were delivered to participating physicians in Boston. The largest of these checks totaled nearly $40,000 and was presented to Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a large medical group serving hundreds of employees in one of BTE's sponsor companies.

Another practice that received an incentive was the three-doctor Middleboro Pediatrics medical group, which uses an all-electronic medical record system. "We're proud to have earned recognition, and we're proof that good medical technology is not just for large medical groups," said Neal Bornstein, MD, Senior Partner of the practice. "With good technology, practicing medicine according to the latest and best guidelines becomes routine; without it, it's almost impossible. We could never go back to paper records."

Bridges to Excellence Launches in Capital District
The Albany-Schenectady region becomes the fourth Bridges to Excellence region in the nation-joining Boston; Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky. The Capital region is the first region to have all three BTE programs - POL, DCL and for the first time, Cardiac Care Link (CCL). The CCL program is focused on improving the quality of care for patients with cardiovascular disease. The annual per patient bonus for being recognized by the Heart Stroke Recognition Program* is up to $160. This New York region is home to about 50,000 employees and dependents of companies involved in the BTE effort, including an estimated 2,000 people with diabetes and 1,000 individuals who have suffered a stroke or heart attack. Thus, the potential incentive pool for the area is nearly $3 million.

A number of physician groups have already expressed interest in seeking POL recognition. These include Community Care Physicians, CapitalCare Medical Group and Prime Care Physicians. Both large and small practices are expected to participate.

"Our practice has a real commitment to investing in the infrastructure we need to implement the latest health information technology," said Louis Snitkoff, MD, Medical Director of CapitalCare, a multi-specialty primary care group. "The Bridges to Excellence program will help us share in the return of those investments so we can deliver the best possible care to our patients."

That sentiment was echoed by other area practices.

"Investing in electronic medical records and pharmacy order systems to improve quality and efficiency is the right thing to do," said John A. Lutz, CEO of Prime Care Physicians, a practice of 80 physicians that will participate in all three recognition programs. "We're looking forward to continuing to demonstrate to our patients that we deliver top-notch diabetes and cardiac care."

The 175-doctor Community Care Physicians medical practice also plans to seek recognition. "The programs speak to the kind of cardiac and diabetes care our providers deliver," said Thomas Auer, MD, the group's President and Medical Director. "That little star next to your name in a physician directory means a lot to someone who needs you."

In addition to the bonus payments, recognized physicians in all three of the BTE programs will be highlighted in physician directories and within participating companies, thus helping patients identify doctors best able to treat their particular conditions.

To encourage patients to take a more active role in managing chronic illnesses, some BTE employees will also have access to an on-line customized care management tool developed by WebMD Health. This innovative tool will allow individuals to record self-care activities, learn more about their illness, and earn reward points good toward a range of financial and non-financial incentives.

For more information on Bridges to Excellence, or to find out how to participate as an employer or a physician, visit the program's Web site at


About Bridges to Excellence

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 and patient-centered care. Bridges to Excellence participants include large employers, health plans, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, MEDSTAT and WebMD Health, among others. The organizations are united in their shared goal of improving health care quality through measurement, reporting, rewards and education.

* An American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) and National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Program

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