For finance editor, covering value-based care takes well-versed sources, hours of interviews

money-and-medicineWe’ve all heard the talk about how the health care system is moving quickly from fee-for-service payment to value-based care. Certainly a new payment model is needed, but what is the difference between fee-for-service and value-based payment?

As health care journalists we have a good idea about how FFS works, but what are the characteristics of new models in which physicians and hospitals are paid for delivering value? And how do payers define value exactly?

As the senior finance editor for HealthLeaders Media, Christopher Cheney (@cccheney) has written extensively about how payers and providers are implementing VBP models and so can answer these questions. But on his beat, he finds it can be a challenge to identify sources who are truly knowledgeable and who have the requisite depth of experience.

In a new AHCJ How I did It article, Cheney writes, “Even the large health systems that have been leading the movement away from fee-for-service medicine only have a couple years of experience in new payment models such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program and episode-of-care contracting with commercial payers.” In rural areas, only about 15 percent of health care providers have even begun moving away from FFS, he reports.

Chris Cheney

Chris Cheney

For a cover story, “Developing Value-Based Models,” in HealthLeaders magazine last fall, Cheney explains how he found reliable and knowledgeable sources and how, for this article, he conducted two one-hour interviews with his primary source, whom he calls a content guru who guides his reporting.

“For every HealthLeaders cover story I have produced so far, one consultant with deep knowledge of the subject matter has served as content guru,” he writes. For the cover story on VBP, his content guru was Harold D. Miller, president and CEO Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform in Pittsburgh. “He played a key role pulling the nuances from my research and interviews,” Cheney writes.

Indeed, Miller is one of the best sources on health care payment models. You can read our previous coverage of his work here and here. Also, check out some of the impressive publications available on the CHQPR site.

In September 2014, Cheney heard Miller address The Economist’s Health Care Forum in Boston. “His command of topics related to alternative payment models and making significant strides toward value-based care stood out, even in a field of speakers flush with world-class expertise,” Cheney explains.

From that encounter, Cheney knew he had perhaps the best content guru for his cover story. He also explained how he interviews these special sources twice for an hour each time, once at the beginning of his research and again toward the end.

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