Executives described the plan, launched last week, at the Pay for Performance conference here Feb. 7.
While well over 100 Pay for Performance initiatives are under way in the country, this may be the only one to be organized by a group of employers rather than health care plans. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has also adopted pay-for-performance measures, in which health care providers get more money for meeting quality initiatives.
Jeffrey Rideout, chief medical officer for Cisco, said that the companies motivation is not selling more technology but providing higher-quality health care for its employees.
Hospitals and medical groups will receive up to $150,000 each for demonstrating criteria set by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a non-profit organization. In addition to measures requiring the use of information technology, the criteria measure how well providers support patients in managing their health. This could include online chats between physicians and patients or automated systems to send reminders and advice to patients with chronic diseases like diabetes. The first payments are expected sometime next year and will be made separately by each of the companies.
Some attendees at the conference questioned whether the extra funds will have much of an impact, since the selected health care providers, which include the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and Camino Medical Group, already have some of the nations most advanced health IT systems. The selected providers are all in northern California, where the tech firms are based.
Rideout said that many of the providers are adopting technology on their own, but said the initiative will still show how employers can encourage adoption. However, he admitted that the funds providers could receive will be insufficient for large IT installations.
Criss Morikawa, medical director of information technology at Camino Medical Group, said that both the Silicon Valley and a statewide pay-for-performance program help providers figure out how quality could be measured. He said the bar for the Silicon Valley program is quite a bit higher: "If a patient doesnt show up for a nutritionist appointment, you have to figure out why," he said.
Corrie Zenzola, health initiatives manager of Intel, said her company is interested in expanding the provider incentive program. Intel normally rolls out new programs nationwide, she said, but the northern California experiment is a worthy exception. "In these health initiative spaces we cant sit and wait," she said. "If its ready to go, were going to go after it." She hopes that other employers and health plans will join the program.
Rideout said the measures and reward systems will change over time as the companies get an idea of what is working. "What were trying to do is get ourselves positioned so were not in the position that GM is in now," he said.