CMS Spends $20 Million to Help Small Practices Succeed in the Quality Payment Program

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it has awarded about $20 million to 11 organizations for the first year of a five-year program to provide training and education about the Quality Payment Program for clinicians in “individual or small group practices of 15 clinicians or fewer.” This is the first infusion of cash in what the federal organizations said will add up to about $100 million over the remaining four years of the program.

CMS said that the money will equal “hands-on training” for “thousands” of small practices -- local, experienced, community-based organizations -- especially those that practice in historically under-resourced areas including rural areas, health professional shortage areas, and medically underserved areas. This training and education will be available immediately, nationwide, and will be provided at no cost to eligible clinicians and practices.

The selected organizations are supposed to provide customized technical assistance to clinicians and practices to help them be successful in the Quality Payment Program. While the definition of “successful” was not completely defined, CMS did say that the money will help clinicians choose and report on quality measures, as well as provide guidance with all aspects of the program, including supporting change management and strategic planning and assessing and optimizing health information technology.

The funding is a carrot approach to helping “clinicians understand and provide feedback about the new Quality Payment Program. Through webinars and in-person presentations, thousands have received free training and education from CMS staff since the Quality Payment Program Final Rule was released last October,” CMS said in a statement. Additionally, every clinician in the Quality Payment Program can receive in-person training, including information about the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, as well as the Alternative Payment Model track.

“Clinicians in small and rural practices are critical to serving the millions of Americans across the nation who rely on Medicare for their health care,” said Dr. Kate Goodrich, CMS chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, in a statement. “Congress … provided the funding for this assistance, so clinicians in these practices can navigate the new program, while being able to focus on what matters most -- the needs of their patients.” 

As part of that outreach effort, CMS also launched a new telephone helpline for clinicians seeking assistance with the Quality Payment Program. Clinicians may contact the Quality Payment Program by calling (866) 288-8292 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern or emailing qpp@cms.hhs.gov.

Enacted in 2015, MACRA empowered CMS to establish the Quality Payment Program, which offers eligible clinicians to pathways to earn performance-based payment adjustments: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models. CMS released the final rule for the Quality Payment Program as part of MACRA implementation last October. Prior to publishing the rule, the federal agency announced additional flexibility for eligible clinicians during the first year of the program —pick-your-pace.

CMS awarded contracts to the following organizations to provide the on-the-ground training and education to small practices:

  • Altarum
  • Georgia Medical Care Foundation (GMCF)
  • Healthcentric Advisors
  • Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG)
  • IPRO
  • Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI)
  • QSource
  • Qualis
  • Quality Insights (West Virginia Medical Institute)
  • Telligen
  • TMF Health Quality Institute
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Scott Rupp

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Scott E. Rupp is a writer and an award-winning journalist focused on healthcare technology. He has worked as a public relations executive for a major electronic health record/practice management vendor, and he currently manages his own agency, millerrupp. In addition to writing for a variety of publications, Scott also offers his insights on healthcare technology and its leaders on his site, Electronic Health Reporter.

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