Group sees outcomes project as worthwhile

With per physician fees, software charges, and other costs, joining a database can add up to a commitment of several thousand dollars a year. But there are ways to minimize those costs and offset them with direct financial benefits.

Eye Physicians Management Corp. of Willow Grove, PA, coordinates the outcomes management program for the independent practice association it serves: Greater Philadelphia Eye Care/Centers for Excellence. They participate in the National Ophthalmic Outcomes Library, which is sponsored by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and is managed by Summit Medical Systems in Minneapolis.

The individual practices send completed data forms to the practice management company, which scans them into the cataract and patient satisfaction database. That centralized activity minimizes the disruption and expense to practices. Each practice pays about $2,000 to $3,000 — depending on the number of physicians — to belong to the database, says Allen Strahl, MBA, president and CEO.

The database project fits into a strategy of competing on quality, says Strahl. The first report of the IPA’s outcomes data showed that it was above national norms for such indicators as complications after cataract surgery.

"The program so far has been very well-received by managed care payers," says Strahl. "It’s opening the doors for risk contract discussions and helping us to better gain entry into those types of contracts."

Outcomes data give medical groups the information they need to assess financial risks of patient populations and monitor utilization, as well as quality.

Strahl acknowledges that the data collection has been tedious for physicians, who must complete lengthy forms. He is urging Summit and ASCRS to streamline them.

But meanwhile, the outcomes project has been more than worth it, both for building distinction in the marketplace and for quality improvement.

"We’re not just doing this to prove our superiority," says Strahl. "We take quality very seriously. We want to know what the outcomes are and help our doctors continually improve."