Need Help Preparing for Medicare's Quality Payment Program?

Take Advantage of Free Technical Assistance for QPP

June 13, 2017 03:24 pm Sheri Porter

If you are a family physician whose practice is trying to find a path through Medicare's new Quality Payment Program (QPP), here's some great news: You have easy access to free technical assistance programs.

[Computer board with words - technical support]

Practices eligible to participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or an advanced alternative payment model (APM) have several options because CMS wants to be sure they get the help they need to succeed.

Tracey Allen-Ehrhart, manager of the AAFP's Center for Quality, said CMS has made assurances that 100 percent of eligible clinicians will have access to free technical support.

Allen-Ehrhart calls it the "no wrong door" approach.

"Through a variety of technical assistance programs created to prepare practices for the Quality Payment Program, CMS is offering all eligible clinicians technical assistance and support that is individualized and customized for their practice needs," said Allen-Ehrhart.

She pressed the point further for AAFP News: "Practices should make sure they consider this offer because it's no cost to them but can help physicians target what they can do now to ensure better payment in future years."

CPC+ July 13 Deadline Approaching

Tracey Allen-Ehrhart, manager of the AAFP's Center for Quality, reminds physicians that if they live in one of the four regions selected for round two of the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) initiative, time is running short to meet the July 13 application deadline.

Selected practices become part of an advanced alternative payment model, "and that program gives them better payment as it moves away from fee-for-service," says Allen-Ehrhart.

And, importantly, "CPC+ offers a five-year technical assistant program to participants," she tells AAFP News.

CPC+ round two is being implemented in Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and the greater Buffalo region of New York (Erie and Niagara counties).

Allen-Ehrhart added that CMS is so committed to this high level of support that regardless of which entity a physician reaches out to -- be it the main QPP helpline at 866-288-8292 or one of several contractors -- "If your practice is not the right fit for that particular program, within 24 hours there will be a handoff to the right contractor so that you can get the right support."

The AAFP knows the number of programs available to family physicians is confusing, and that's why the Academy has developed new online resources designed to help physicians cut through the clutter.

For instance, the QPP Small Practice, Underserved and Rural Support technical assistance program is just one of four technical assistance programs funded by CMS.

In its role as a subcontractor for this program, the AAFP is in the process of alerting small-practice family physicians in certain states and Puerto Rico of the free support that is waiting for them.

Family physicians in practices with 15 or fewer clinicians who live in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas or Puerto Rico should watch their mailbox for a postcard from the AAFP.

The postcard explains that technical support experts can help practices

  • select and report on appropriate measures and improvement activities,
  • engage in continuous quality improvement,
  • optimize health information technology, and
  • evaluate various APM options.

But Allen-Ehrhart stressed that the same level of technical assistance is available for practices nationwide.

"There's a different program for the large systems and large practices and there's TCPi (Transforming Clinical Practice initiative), which is for practices that are interested in broader practice transformation," she said.

The role of the technical assistance programs is twofold, Allen-Ehrhart noted. The contractor helps physicians look at what can be improved within their practices, and also helps physicians decide whether they belong in MIPS or should find -- and begin participating in -- an advanced APM.

In short, she added, "These programs are designed to help physicians pick the best place for their practices to operate within the QPP."