BU Public Health Researchers to Evaluate National Program that Awards Doctors Cash Bonuses

Contact: Laura Williams, 617/638-849 | lmikols@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — Starting January 1, as part of the Rewarding Results program, employers and insurers across the nation will award cash bonuses to physicians who offer high-quality care to their patients. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has awarded .5 million to researchers in the Health Services Department at Boston University’s School of Public Health to evaluate whether offering financial incentives will improve patient safety and health care.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation in partnership with AHRQ is launching the three-year Rewarding Results Program, in response to the Institute of Medicine report Crossing the Quality Chasm. The report recommended offering stronger incentives to physicians to encourage them to provide better care to their patients. The six organizations chosen for the pilot project offer health care to more than 22 million Americans.

Each health plan will determine its own incentive-based approach and which quality practices it will pay for, such as Pap smear tests or asthma evaluations. Principal Investigator Gary Young, associate professor of Health Services at Boston University’s School of Public Health, and his colleagues will evaluate all of the approaches and then make recommendations on improving the quality of care and the types of incentives required to motivate physicians to achieve quality goals.

“Our role is to promote the scientific integrity of this experiment and determine what far-reaching lessons can be learned and replicated,” says Young, who will also be searching for any unintended consequences from tying financial incentives to clinical care.

“The demonstration will move doctors’ behaviors in targeted directions, but we have to determine whether other areas will then be overlooked or neglected,” he says. “It’s very similar to concerns many educators have with the MCATS. You can teach to the test, but then have to ask yourself what is being left out.”

The BU team will also: assist organizations in designing self-evaluation protocols; identify primary factors that facilitate or impede reaching goals; advise on how design and implementation factors contribute to reaching goals; and determine how initial successes achieved through Rewarding Results can be shared with healthcare organizations throughout the country.

Founded in 1976, BU’s School of Public Health is committed to offering graduate education that shapes a healthier and safer world through applied public health research.