CMS Awards $685 Million to Aid Providers in Transformation Efforts

The CMS Innovation Center is awarding $685 million to more than three dozen physician groups, health systems and other organizations for training, education and investment in information technology, care coordination and quality-improvement efforts.

The funds were awarded under the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, which was first announced last year as a four-year effort that federal officials said would save up to $5 billion. The funding, federal officials said, will complement federal efforts already underway that establish new incentives for quality and efficiency, and bolster the use of information technology to increase clinicians’ and patients’ timely access to medical records and other crucial data.

“Supporting doctors and other healthcare professionals change the way they work is critical to improving quality and spending our healthcare dollars more wisely,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.

The CMS Innovation Center awarded funding to 39 networks made up of organizations that include health systems, public health agencies, associations and employer groups. Groups will work with one another to share ideas or provide education and support. The networks are expected to provide assistance to as many as 14,000 clinicians.

Networks will fall into two categories: practice transformation networks, which will pair providers who have had prior success with quality improvement and cost containment with those who need help; and support and alignment networks, which will include associations and other organizations with the ability to broadly communicate and educate providers.

“I travel and interact with physicians and clinicians across the nation and they’ve asked for support in their transformation efforts,” Dr. Patrick Conway, the CMS’ deputy administrator for innovation and quality, said on a press call with reporters Tuesday.

Industry insiders praised the effort, calling it critical. For instance, The American Board of Family Medicine will use funds it’s receiving to help more than 25,000 family physicians move the practice from a volume based approach to a value based approach.

HHS has set a goal of tying 30% of traditional, or fee-for-service, Medicare payments to quality or value through alternative payment models, such as accountable care organizations or bundled payment arrangements by the end of 2016, and tying 50% of payments to these models by the end of 2018.

“We moving very quickly towards value based purchasing, and a lot of primary care physicians aren’t ready,” Dr. Robert Phillips, vice president for research and policy at the American Board of Family Medicine.

The American College of Radiology is also receiving funds to provide technical assistance support that will help patients avoid unwarranted testing, reduce errors and improve quality and safety, according to its CEO Dr. William Thorwarth.

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