ACEP ‘Chooses’ Differently, Opts for Alternative Approach to Find Cost Savings


[This article will be published in the November issue of ACEP News. See the entire ACEP News libary online at www.acepnews.com]

After considerable debate, the ACEP Council voted this month to refrain from participation in the national “Choosing Wisely” campaign in large part due to the other efforts being taken by ACEP to achieve the same and even larger goals.

“Choosing Wisely” is part of a multi-year effort of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation to help physicians be better stewards of finite health care resources, according to its website. As part of the campaign, specialty organizations identify five tests or procedures commonly used in their field, the necessity of which should be questioned and discussed by patients and physicians.

ACEP had considered joining this campaign three distinct times since its launch in December 2011. Three different workgroups of various ACEP members, committees and Board members looked at the campaign and decided that while the concept is positive, the scope of listing tests, especially for emergency physicians, was too narrow.

Despite this extensive review by ACEP members, a resolution was submitted by the New York Chapter asking the ACEP Council to decide if ACEP should join the “Choosing Wisely” campaign.

As part of the Council process, resolutions are first debated in a reference committee where members of the Council provide background about the resolution, give testimony to its merit or explain reasons why it should not be adopted.  It was standing room only for the debate about this resolution and discussion was spirited. The debate continued the next day with many of the same reasons echoed on the open floor of the Council with mroe than 300 voting members in attendance.

Those in support of ACEP joining the campaign said that 26 medical specialties (except for emergency medicine and anesthesia) have joined or committed to participate. They added that participating could give ACEP more national visibility and bargaining power, and that ACEP could use its participation to educate other specialties about emergency medicine’s particular challenges.

Those opposed to ACEP joining the campaign said that the Choosing Wisely campaign does not involve any negotiation with others in medicine, and that it could lead to unintended consequences, including a lack of liability protection, vulnerability to the False Claims Act and automatic payment denials from insurance companies based on tests that the campaign deems to be “unnecessary.” 

One large concern was that the intent of the campaign had already eroded, with several specialties offering only minimal savings and stepping outside of their field and including tests on their lists that are outside the scope of their practice.

The issue generated strong feeling on both sides and the majority of the Council ultimately decided to refrain from participation.

ACEP already had opted to strive to identify cost savings measures without compromising patient care. Three task forces were established in 2012 to work toward this idea – the Cost Effective Care Task Force, the Delivery System Reform Task Force, and the Transitions of Care Task Force.

ACEP’s Cost Effective Care Task Force is developing recommendations on ways to reduce costs in emergency care. Through member surveys, a Delphi approach, and use of the Emergency Medicine Practice Research Network (EMPRN), this group will not only consider unnecessary tests and procedures but also processes with emergency care that might represent meaningful cost savings while improving patient care. This task force is expected to complete its work and offer its report to ACEP’s Board in February of 2013.

It is hoped that these reports of significant recommendations can fuel a public campaign and support health policy advocacy concerning how emergency physicians are not just making a list of tests to cut, but instead are looking at much larger initiatives, processes and transitions that could result in real health care savings while improving patient care.

The Delivery System Reform Task Force gave its report to the ACEP Board of Directors on Oct. 5. It can be found online at www.acep.org/advocacy/federalissues/.

“The emergency department remains at least one of the reasonable solutions for addressing many of the health care system’s most vexing problems from a delivery system perspective,” the report states. “Emergency physicians are well positioned to provide innovation and leadership across the acute care continuum. Even from the perspective of employers, the patients, and payers, the allegedly high cost of care is incompletely characterized, often misconstrued, and lacks sufficient perspective in the broader context of community economics and the health care delivery system itself. Addressing these dynamics will require significant and intensive efforts to bring data, information, and solutions to a delivery system in rapid evolution.”

In addition to efforts that should be continued, the report also lists several recommendations of efforts that should be started or enhanced, including information sharing to primary care providers (and specialists), care coordination for high-cost users, regionalization of patient care resources (mobile technology, telemedicine), cost effective alternatives to hospital admission and others.

The report also recommends efforts that should be stopped or reduced (because emergency physicians are not trained or resourced for it, or could be more efficiently delivered in an alternative setting), such as longitudinal care for chronic illnesses, primary preventative care, non-value driven convenience care, and treatment of medical conditions that have no incremental benefit to the patient or value to the system.

The Transitions of Care Task Force also developed an information paper that was submitted to the ACEP Board of Directors in draft form on Oct. 5. When it is finalized, it will be announced to ACEP members and posted on ACEP’s website.

The Task Force paper notes that “The emergency department has an important, in fact pivotal, role in transitions of care and can enhance its value to the system by implementing more successful transition programs. As the emphasis and oversight of quality and cost increase, successful coordination of patients’ journeys through the health care system will help advance the triple aim of better population health, better patient experiences, and reduced cost to the system. “

To achieve this goal, the Transitions of Care Task Force made several recommendations, including

  • improve residency training and continuing professional development for emergency physicians on the importance of handoffs in effective transitions of care
  • work with emergency department information system vendors to produce transition support tools
  • identify strategies that make handoffs successful, and use them to establish goals for emergency departments
  • develop a web-based toolkit that includes resources, assessment and support tools, and best practices
  • develop education resources on palliative care in the emergency department to enhance knowledge and increase the number of emergency department-based palliative care programs
  • and more.

ACEP has a strong focus on these issues of improving patient care and providing cost savings. To that end, multiple recommendations continue to be developed and adopted by the College. We are dedicated to ensuring that our specialty brings ideas that truly will improve care for the millions of patients we treat and provide real, substantial savings to the nation’s health care expenses.

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  1. #1 by Myles Riner - November 3rd, 2012 at 19:27

    Purportedly, the Choosing Wisely campaign was rejected by ACEP because “it could lead to unintended consequences, including a lack of liability protection, vulnerability to the False Claims Act and automatic payment denials from insurance companies based on tests that the campaign deems to be “unnecessary.””

    It’s probably not going to be easy for ACEP’s Cost Effective Care Task Force to come up with strategies to reduce the cost of care that will completely or significantly mitigate the risks of unintended consequences, liability concerns, vulnerabilities to allegations of false claim submissions, and payment denials – these are inherent in most efforts to address unnecessary or avoidable care, even those that are directed towards processes of care. This litmus test could prove insurmountable.

  2. #2 by buikspieroefeningen thuis - September 28th, 2013 at 06:48

    Completely agree with you Myles. But it’s good to think about this topic. Because there are still a lot of options and possibilities to reduce costs.

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