Press Release


Bridges to Excellence (BTE) coalition highlights 35 area medical groups as IT leaders; for patients, IT means better care

WASHINGTON - The Bridges to Excellence (BTE) coalition, a group of large employers that supports various physician pay-for-performance efforts around the country, today announced its largest bonus payout to date: $800,000 to 35 medical groups in the Boston area. The incentive payments reward physician practices that have implemented systems and leveraged available information technology to track and educate patients, maintain medical records, prescribe medicines and ensure appropriate follow up. Such systems have been shown to dramatically improve patient care and prevent mistakes.

The groups earned rewards by meeting criteria established by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) related to the adoption of technology-based care management systems. Such systems - ranging from simple patient registries to full electronic medical records - were strongly endorsed by the Institute of Medicine's 2001 report, Crossing the Quality Chasm, as a key part of the solution to the nation's health care quality issues.

"It's inevitable that some of our employees are going to get sick, but what happens next is up to us," said Jeffrey Hanson, Regional Healthcare Manager, Verizon, one of the companies participating in the BTE coalition. "By paying doctors to invest in better practice systems we can ensure that our employees and their families get the best possible care."

The pressing need to improve medical information technology is among the most widely discussed 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.

"Your doctor should have your medical history in front of her the next time you go in for a visit - it's really the only way to ensure that you get the right care," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "And when you leave, the doctor should be looking for trends and assessing her performance to see how to better serve all her patients. These incentive payments will help make that vision a reality."

The Physician Office Link program is one of the newest of a series of pay-for-performance initiatives offered by the Bridges coalition in Boston and Schenectady/Albany. The Bridges coalition also offers incentives for Recognition in diabetes care in the Louisville and Cincinnati areas. A wide range of systems and activities can help a physician qualify for annual rewards through the program. These include having a list of patients by disease (registries), use of reminders for physicians or patients, electronic prescription ordering, patient education programs, care management systems and fully functional electronic medical records. All of those strategies better connect physicians, patients and important information. In addition to monetary rewards, NCQA also highlights recognized providers on its Web site.

BTE also offers rewards to doctors and medical groups who meet NCQA, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association criteria in the areas of diabetes care and cardiac/stroke care. Rewards are based on the number of patients a physician or medical group treats who are covered by one of the participating Bridges employers.

Among the 35 medical groups (see list below) that earned rewards was the Lahey Clinic. "Having strong clinical and information systems to support the delivery of care is essential for achieving the best outcomes," said Lahey Clinic's Chief Operating Officer Sanford R. Kurtz, M.D. "This is one of the first quality initiatives that has actually created the incentives needed to motivate investments in processes that will lead to better care. We are delighted to be part of the program and to be recognized for our excellence in clinical practice systems."
More than 400 physicians work in the medical groups that earned BTE rewards, including Tom Lee, M.D., Network President for Partners HealthCare System, a longtime promoter of better health care information technology.

"A lot of people equate a good doctor with good medicine," said Lee "It's not that simple. If I don't have easy access to your medical history, how am I going to know that you're overdue for a screening, or that the drug I'm about to prescribe doesn't react well with the drug another doctor has given you? A system that keeps such critical information locked away on paper leads to oversights, errors and deaths. These incentives will advance health care IT and help move us forward."
The coalition includes several national large employers including General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Verizon, United Parcel Service and Ford. Employers participating in the coalition expect to reap substantial benefits for promoting pay-for-performance in health care, including higher productivity, reduced absenteeism and increased employee loyalty.

Physicians and employers interested in participating in earning rewards or joining the coalition should visit the BTE 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 (NCQA), 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.

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