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Study finds pay for performance stimulates changes in medical practice
Date:3/9/2009

A large group of California physicians given financial incentives to improve the quality of medical care have begun to embrace an array of changes important to advancing quality, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Measures adopted by medical groups include speeding up adoption of information technology such as electronic medical records, more closely tracking the improvement of physician performance and sharpening institutional focus on quality, according to findings published in the March/April edition of the journal Health Affairs. The project was supported by a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation.

"Physician groups are responding to pay-for-performance programs by making practice changes and altering how they compensate physicians to reward quality, but health plans and purchasers say that those investments are not yet translating into substantial gains in quality," said Cheryl Damberg, the study's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

"The true benefits of these programs may take more time to be realized and it is likely that investments in other quality efforts will be needed in addition to performance-based pay," Damberg said.

The RAND Health study found that medical groups are providing some payments to individual physicians based on quality measures and physicians in the program are receiving more feedback about whether they are attaining quality goals.

Pay-for-performance programs in health care have grown rapidly in recent years as a way to improve the quality of care delivered by doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. Despite the rapid adoption of these programs, there is little research about how well they work and what types of strategies work best.

RAND researchers are evaluating a statewide pay-for-performance program launched by the California Integrated Healthcare Association in 2003. The init
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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