Clarify regulatory issues. Extensive use of standing orders and protocols allowed us to increase involvement of various team members. State laws vary in what functions CMAs and LPNs are allowed to perform, so it is important to check your state guidelines.25 There is a tendency for some risk managers to overinterpret regulations. Challenge them to provide exact documentation from regulatory agencies to support their decisions.
Give assurances of physician oversight and processes. The physician assumes responsibility for standing orders, protocols, and documentation. We made sure that we had clear and consistent processes in place and worked closely with our risk managers as we developed our model. aTBC provides checks and balances to ensure accurate records, since team members are able to contribute and check for accuracy. A recent study suggested that CMAs perform documentation that is of equal or higher quality than that performed by the physician.26
Like any organization adopting aTBC, Bellin’s leadership was concerned about the expense of adopting this approach. However, the leadership also recognized that the transition to aTBC could increase revenue by more than the increased staffing costs. In addition, we expected that capacity, access, continuity, and financial margins would increase.2,3,27,28 We also anticipated a decrease in downstream services, such as unnecessary tests, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations—a benefit of accountable care payment models.
Our efforts have been successful from a financial point of view. We attribute the financial sustainability that we have experienced to 4 factors:
1. Increased productivity. We knew that the increased efficiency of team-based care enables physicians to see 1 to 2 more patients per half day, and sometimes more.3,28,29 An increase of at least 1 patient visit per half-day was expected of our physicians and APCs on aTBC. In addition, they were expected to support the care team RN in achieving at least 4 billable visits per day. Our current level of RN visits is at 3.5 per nurse per day. There is significant variability in the increase of patients seen by a physician per day, ranging from 1 to 4 additional patients. These increased visits have helped us achieve financial viability, even in a predominantly fee-for-service environment.
2. More thorough service. The ability to keep patients in primary care and to focus on the patient’s full range of needs has led to higher levels of service and, consequently, to appropriately higher levels of billing codes. For example, Bellin’s revenue from billing increased by $724 per patient, related (in part) to higher rates of immunizations, cancer screenings with mammography, and colonoscopies.
Continue to: 3. New billable services