Shifting away from fee-for-service: Alternative approaches to payment in gastroenterology

Fee-for-service payments encourage high-volume services rather than high-quality care. Alternative payment models (APMs) aim to realign financing to support high-value services.

The 2 main components of gastroenterologic care, procedures and chronic care management, call for a range of APMs. The first step for gastroenterologists is to identify the most important conditions and opportunities to improve care and reduce waste that do not require financial support.

We describe examples of delivery reforms and emerging APMs to accomplish these care improvements. A bundled payment for an episode of care, in which a provider is given a lump sum payment to cover the cost of services provided during the defined episode, can support better care for a discrete procedure such as a colonoscopy. Improved management of chronic conditions can be supported through a per-member, per-month (PMPM) payment to offer extended services and care coordination.

For complex chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, in which the gastroenterologist is the principal care coordinator, the PMPM payment could be given to a gastroenterology medical home. For conditions in which the gastroenterologist acts primarily as a consultant for primary care, such as noncomplex gastroesophageal reflux or hepatitis C, a PMPM payment can support effective care coordination in a medical neighborhood delivery model. Each APM can be supplemented with a shared savings component.

Gastroenterologists must engage with and be early leaders of these redesign discussions to be prepared for a time when APMs may be more prevalent and no longer voluntary.

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