Spending $1 billion on innovation
HHS aims to improve quality through challenge
HHS named a new $1 billion initiative the Health Care Innovation Challenge to encourage competition among healthcare organizations, but for providers, the real challenge now is to determine what the CMS is looking for in potential applicants.
Announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week, the latest endeavor from the CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will award funding from the healthcare reform law to projects that test creative ways to deliver better quality medical care and save money. Providers, payers, local governments, community-based organizations and publicprivate partnerships are eligible to apply and the awards are expected to range from $1 million to as high as $30 million for three years.
A news release heralded the program as part of the Obama administration’s We Can’t Wait initiative, a series of executive actions aimed at job growth. The name is a political jab at congressional Republicans, who have rejected most of the jobs plan President Barack Obama introduced in September.
According to HHS, the CMS Innovation Center will give priority to projects that hire, train and deploy healthcare workers quickly— although officials last week were not specific on either the number or type of healthcare workers that should be employed. CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick said the agency did not have a target number, but that the need for people in new job roles to meet the needs of better coordinated care “is large.”
Dr. Richard Gilfillan, acting director for the Innovation Center, said the applicants will help determine what type of healthcare workers are needed. “We’ve heard that we’ve not addressed the healthcare workforce,” Gilfillan said. “People have said, ‘What about training?’ and we didn’t have that in our initial suite of products that were released,” he said, referring to other Innovation Center efforts, including initiatives such as bundled payments, accountable care organizations and the recent Innovation Advisors program (Nov. 7, p. 6).
“The healthcare workforce of the future will be different,” he added. “In conjunction with their models, what will the implications of the workforce be?” he said about the needs of potential applicants.
Gilfillan reiterated the theme the Innovation Center wants to hear from applicants— who are expected to submit letters of intent by Dec. 19—about their ideas for ways of delivering better care. “They’ve got great ideas and this is an opportunity to release that energy and give them energy to have those ideas become supported,” he said.
However, some have said that the program is vague, which leaves prospective applicants