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A CJR Primer

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a CJR Bootcamp put on by the Healthcare Education Associates in Miami, Florida. The boot camp setting was intimate, collegial, and well targeted. With the exception of a trio of cardio folks who wanted to get ahead of their bundles, all attendees were directly responsible for implementing bundles at their health systems . The two days were jam-packed with information ranging from understanding the legislation to influencing surgeon behavior to assembling a great team to implement CJR. I recommend that if you’re on the hook for bundles in your organization that you check out this or a similar training yourself.

There is too much to recap in a single blog post, so I’ll share some high-level takeaways:

Bundles Are Complex

Even advanced organizations had gaps in their knowledge and understanding when it comes to the complexity associated with bundles. CMS continues to evolve the requirements and guidelines, causing some implementation approaches to have to rely on predicting what’s going to stick.

For example, the original PRO guidelines were for HOOS and KOOS, which have now been changed to HOOSJR and KOOSJR. If you’re concerned about requirements changing, consider adopting requirements that will benefit you even if they change. Organizations that started tracking HOOS and KOOS have a leg (or knee or hip) up because they have historical outcome data and have hopefully streamlined their processes.

Bundles Require Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Organizational Teams

Within an organization, you’ll need a multi-disciplinary team that includes clinical, administrative, operational and finance, technology, procurement and so on. You’ll also require an executive sponsor who will make sure senior leadership is aware of and supporting your initiative.

A recommended working group looks like this:

  1. Executive Sponsor(s)
  2. Physician Lead
  3. Project Manager(s)
  4. Care Navigator/Care Coordination Lead
  5. HER/IT Lead
  6. Data Analytics & Quality Leads
  7. Compliance Lead
  8. Legal Lead
  9. Communications Lead
  10. Gainsharing Program Support

You’ll need to be skilled in both project management as well as the ability to influence change. Consider all the stakeholders that need to be influenced – who are the best people to influence them and how?

Think about the rhythm of communication to different stakeholders. Too much and you overwhelm. Too little and people aren’t part of the process.

 Influencing Surgeons

One of the sessions focused on how to change behavior of surgeons. It was presented by Claudette Lajam, M.D. Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Chief Safety Officer at NYU Langone Orthopedics, who had the task of decreasing costs for implants and improving quality by getting Langone’s to use the right selection criteria. Dr. Lajam studied behavior change theory to implement the change, but it came down to understanding surgeon behavior. She presented them with data, and encouraged competition: each surgeon was able to see in a weekly report where they stood with respect to costs and quality against everyone else in the department.

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In the new model, hospitals are responsible for gain sharing with both upstream and downstream partners where they have less influence and insight. Understanding your top performing orthopedic and skilled nursing partners is key to a successful bundle. In some areas, this risk-and-gain sharing is causing consolidation where orthopedic groups are joining hospitals.

Note that with CJR, different from BPCI, conveners are not allowed. That is, hospitals can only share risk with orthopedic groups and skilled nursing facilities. Organizations that offer to manage your program and share the risk are not allowed to participate in any gain sharing.

Bundles Need Data: But People Don’t Have It

If you need to improve outcomes and lower costs, you need to know where you’re starting from.  To know where you’re starting from, you will need lots of data so that the impact of outliers is harmonized. Not many organizations have this level of detail across their entire pathway, either from organizational challenges or challenges of the system.

Sometimes, this is from a variation of care. For example, one surgeon has most of the complex cases, or another surgeon uses a different combination of implants and auxiliary materials.

Sometimes this is from the challenges of inter-organizational communication. For example, the handoffs between hospital and skilled nursing are notoriously bad – usually with hospitals not knowing where their patients ended up and skilled nursing not knowing why they are there.

Add to this that you can’tthis on top of not being able to find out if a patient is even in the CJR bundle for a period until the CMS data comes back.

So, you’ve got a complex challenge, with large and heterogeneous teams and organizations, and a lack of data. What do you do? Give up? Of course not.

First, attend a boot camp like this one.

Then, treat every patient like they are in a bundle and work on improving outcomes.

Finally, take a look at your position, risk, and low hanging fruit. Even if you only have a few patients in the bundle today, the private payers and self-insured employers are monitoring this closely.

There is Low Hanging Fruit

There are a few areas that have been identified as opportunities to lower costs without impacting quality:

  • Inpatient rehab has been targeted, and often cut. Patients need to get moving soon after surgery, but they may not need as many sessions with a PT directly. We have patients who are following their PT care plan through Wellpepper even in an inpatient setting.
  • Standardization and optimization of implants. Often the implant companies charge separately for each component for the implant and try to upsell on items like screws. Negotiating a standardized bundle can decrease costs here, as can evaluating patients for the best joint for their situation rather than using the surgeon’s favorite. (This was the project undertaken at NYU Langone.)
  • Decreasing the length of inpatient and skilled nursing stay. Equipping patients to be more self-sufficient with joint camps, educational materials, and mobile care plans can enable them to go home faster.

You are Here

Possibly because it’s early days and people are still figuring this out, there isn’t a consistent, phased approach to rolling out the CJR bundle. In fact, you can start anywhere. Or maybe you don’t have to.

First off, make sure you’re in one of the X areas where the bundle is being rolled out. If you are, find out who else is in your region. Your cost accountability is for the average for your region. If there are big spenders in your region, you may already be delivering total joints more effectively than others and may not need to change much besides starting to collect PROs.

Also, take a look at your Medicare population for joint replacement. If it’s low, you may only have a few patients that qualify for the bundle each year – which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to improve, but it may impact the amount of effort you put in initially.

Figure out where you are today and plan your efforts accordingly. Don’t try to do everything at once and understand that both your process and the information available will continue to improve.

Good luck!

Posted in: Behavior Change, Clinical Research, Healthcare Legislation, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Research

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