News and Events

Bridges to Excellence Launches New Spine Care Physician Reward Program

May 4, 2007

Initiative Recognizes and Rewards Health Care Providers who Deliver Top-Quality Care for Patients with Low Back Pain

Washington, DC – Chronic back pain is second only to the common cold as the reason for physician office visits and is costly in terms of medical treatment, lost productivity, and diminished quality of life. To broaden the availability of standard measures of care for back pain and highlight and reward physicians and practices that demonstrate that they deliver the highest levels of care, Bridges to Excellence today announced a new incentive initiative the Spine Care Link Program.  Bridges to Excellence (BTE), a member of The Partnership for Value-driven Health Care, is the nation’s largest effort to reward physicians for delivering high-quality care. BTE currently offers three other reward programs for diabetes, cardiac care and the adoption and use of health information technology (HIT).

“As a large purchaser of health care we work to adopt strategies that balance cost and quality of care to create the best results for our employees,” said George Chedraoui, Global Well-being and Health Benefits Leader for IBM Corporation and a BTE board member. “Back pain is one of the most common causes of work disability for employers and greatly affects the quality of life and productivity of our employees. This program brings common standards to improve care, quality of life and productivity for our employees.”

Spine Care Link Program

The Spine Care Link (SCL) Program will recognize and reward physicians who take a patient-centered approach to back pain using 16 evidence-based criteria through the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s (NCQA) recently announced Back Pain Recognition Program.

SCL will offer doctors an annual bonus payment of up to $50 for each back pain patient covered by a participating employer. The reward will be given to those physicians that can demonstrate meeting the following criteria: thorough patient assessment; recommendations for appropriate physical activity; avoiding unnecessary imaging, epidural and surgical procedures; patient education; and shared decision-making with the patient about surgery and alternatives to surgery and other measures.

“The Back Pain Recognition Program promotes evidence-based, patient-centered care,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Extra unnecessary tests can lead to unnecessary, premature procedures that provide no discernible benefit and can even harm patients who live with back pain. NCQA developed these standards to recognize physicians who take a common-sense, proven approach treatment, and to encourage others to follow suit.”

Francois de Brantes, national coordinator for BTE noted, “The introduction of this new program is a key milestone in our efforts to encourage providers to make positive changes to the way they manage patients. By encouraging physicians to reengineer their care processes and creating incentives for back pain care, we’re able to not only improve quality but also reduce costs. The SCL program will only reward physicians who can demonstrate they are reducing the inappropriate overuse of technology in the treatment of back pain.”

Rewards based on actuarial research and analysis

Bridges to Excellence completed an actuarial and research analysis through Towers Perrin to identify the associated savings for the NCQA Back Pain Recognition Program measures and determine the appropriate level of per patient reward that recognized physicians will receive annually. BTE is targeting to have markets and health plans participating in 2008.

“The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has long encouraged its members to measure and improve the quality of care provided to all patients,” said Rick Kellerman, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “For patients with back pain, we encourage our members to use imaging studies only when indicated by one of the ‘red flags’ during the early stages of symptoms. The AAFP supports these types of pay-for-performance programs that engage patients and provide positive incentives for physicians. The Spine Care Link Program has a clear focus on standard measures of care for back pain to help doctors and patients make more informed decisions, thus improving outcomes and controlling costs. We have and will continue to support employers and health plans that implement the Bridges to Excellence model.”

About Bridges to Excellence
Bridges to Excellence (BTE) is a not-for-profit, coalition-based 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, and patient-centered care. BTE works with large employers, health plans, providers and a wide range of organizations that have a shared goal of improving quality and patient outcomes. BTE is a member of The Partnership for Value-driven Health Care, a group formed in late 2006 in response to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt’s call for employers to implement the “four cornerstones of value-driven health care.” For more information go to


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Bridges to Excellence does not endorse any particular product or service or any physician or physician group.

Bridges to Excellence relies on third -party performance assessment organizations such as the NCQA and Quality Improvement Organizations to measure a physician or physician's group performance and ability to demonstrate that they meet certain measures of quality care.