Massachusetts General Physicians Organizations Quality Incentive Program Produces Encouraging Results
Author: David F. Torchiana, Deborah G. Colton, Sandhya K. Rao, Sarah K. Lenz, Gregg S. Meyer, Timothy G. Ferris
Physicians are increasingly becoming salaried employees of hospitals or large physician groups. Yet few published reports have evaluated provider-driven quality incentive programs for salaried physicians. In 2006 the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization began a quality incentive program for its salaried physicians. Eligible physicians were given performance targets for three quality measures every six months. The incentive payments could be as much as 2 percent of a physician’s annual income. Over thirteen six-month terms, the program used 130 different quality measures. Although quality-of-care improvements and cost reductions were difficult to calculate, anecdotal evidence points to multiple successes. For example, the program helped physicians meet many federal health information technology meaningful-use criteria and produced $15.5 million in incentive payments. The program also facilitated the adoption of an electronic health record, improved hand hygiene compliance, increased efficiency in radiology and the cancer center, and decreased emergency department use. The program demonstrated that even small incentives tied to carefully structured metrics, priority setting, and clear communication can help change salaried physicians’ behavior in ways that improve the quality and safety of health care and ease the physicians’ sense of administrative burden.