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Physicians See a Gaping Hole in the Safety Net

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, June 27, 2013

Government quality metrics fall short in meeting the needs of safety-net healthcare providers, who complain that such measures force them to divert their resources into lower priority programs.

Safety net physicians are calling for new measurement criteria to replace existing government quality metrics, saying the status quo isn't suited for the "real world."

Martin Serota, MD, chief medical officer of Alta Med Healthcare Services in Los Angeles, the largest independent federally qualified community health center in the U.S., is one of those docs seeking change. Current quality measurement scores don't address the basic healthcare needs of urban at-risk patients, and, as a result, funding is redirected elsewhere, says Serota. AltaMed is a team that delivers services in 43 sites in an affiliated Independent Practice Association of contracted physicians in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

"With health reform stressing accountability, efficiencies and patient-focused care, it's important we address real world issues for our safety net patients," Serota said in a statement. His call to action is the latest among those having concerns about changing quality metrics for safety net hospitals.

Quality ratings, which are a key element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, influence how hospitals are paid. The quality scores for safety net hospitals have been generally lower than for other hospitals. The safety net hospitals provide a significant level of care to low-income, uninsured and vulnerable populations.

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