Sunday, October 31, 2010

Evaluating Performance of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) Physicians

I'm often asked (usually by hospice executives) how the performance of palliative medicine physicians can best be evaluated. What they're really asking is: how can they tell  if the hospice's investment in its medical staff is paying off? While there is no single, or simple, answer, there are several proven ways.

 I find that most palliative care programs (including hospices) have only recently added to their medical staff (up to this point the majority of physicians practicing palliative medicine (HPM) have been in conventional, part-time hospice medical director positions), and so a strong need for an ongoing performance evaluation program has not been perceived.

But as palliative care organizations move toward a model  relying  on an expanded  role for physicians, performance management takes on greater importance.

To underscore this point, the Joint Commission recently introduced a standard named Ongoing Professional Practice Evaluation (OPPE). The intent of the standard is to encourage health care organizations to  look at data on performance for all practitioners with privileges on an ongoing basis rather than at the customary two year reappointment process, to allow the practitioners to take steps to improve performance on a more timely basis. While this standard applies specifically to hospitals, hospices and palliative care programs should take note.

In coming posts, I'll offer some ideas for physician performance management which we've seen work well, and may suggest a starting point for those grappling with the issue of evaluating and managing a palliative care  organization's investment in physician resources. And, I'd like to swap ideas with readers.

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