So how might CMS' change of heart improve quality of care? Erickson says much of the changes will involve reassignment of duties among staff who now perform coordination functions "on an ad hoc" basis, as time allows.
One example is that the RN may call the patient before the visit to clarify the patient's reason for coming in, she says. "If you identify what the patient wants to do before they get there, it cuts back on those last minute, 'oh, doctor, by the way' questions as the physician is walking out the door, but which were the reason the patient came in the first place," she says.
Other types of improved quality might include following up with referral specialists to make sure the patient was seen and what type of care ensued. Practices might block out time at the end of each day to accomplish some of these tasks that otherwise slip through the cracks.
"This is an on-ramp," Erickson says. "It gets some money in the door to provide consistent, systematic care coordination for patients with multiple chronic conditions." In time, she says, ACP will work to have such services rewarded even more, in line with the trend to pay for value rather than volume.
It's a work in progress, she says, "like trying to fix a plane while you're flying in it." Though few doctors are aware of the new provision, in coming months ACP will launch an educational campaign to get the word out. For now, doctors will have a year to prepare for it.
"We hope the G-code will have a significant impact," she says.