Bill establishes physician quality reporting system

Following up on the deal which won physicians a reprieve from the dreaded 5 percent Medicare fee cutback, two Senators have jointly introduced a bill including Medicare quality reporting for physicians. CMS will begin discussing possible quality measures as soon as January 2007, but doctors will not begin to report quality data in 2008, when final measures are expected to be in place. Physicians who agree to participate will get an extra 1.5 percent payment on covered services.

It will be interesting to see whether what percentage of physicians consider the incentive to be lucrative enough for their trouble. After all, that 1.5 percent is gross income, so after expenses, it may not be enough to be worth the exertion. On the other hand, physicians will definitely end up being required to report such data at some point, so getting into the habit makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, given how hard it can be to tease quality data out of scrawled paper records, they'll have a lot easier time of it if they've put EMRs in place. So don't be surprised if 2008 is a big year for EMR adoption, even among the smaller practices that have lagged way behind to date.

For more on the bill:
- read this piece in Healthcare IT News
check out the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the issues (sub. req.)