Spend­ing $1 bil­lion on in­no­va­tion

HHS aims to im­prove qual­ity through chal­lenge

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Jes­sica Zig­mond

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

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