January/February 2007

Mercy Clinics Receives $1 Million Pay for Performance Award


Family medicine and internal medicine physicians at Mercy Clinics, Des Moines, Iowa, recently earned more than $1 million from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa for improving care for patients who have diabetes or hypertension. The payment was three times the Wellmark award of $354,000 earned by Mercy Clinic physicians in 2005. “We identified patients with those chronic conditions and collected information about them in a central database,” said David Swieskowski, MD, vice president of quality improvement for Mercy Clinics. “We set ambitious goals for improvement in the processes we use to care for these patients and for improvement in their health outcomes.” For example, the clinics created a new position, “health coaches,” who work with patients to control their blood sugar and blood pressure levels. By meeting the goals, 87 Mercy physicians at 14 primary care clinics earned a total of $1,062,500 from Wellmark. “We returned the money to the clinics to cover the cost of the program, including bonuses for each staff member. The remainder after expenses was paid in equal amounts to the physicians,” said Swieskowski. “This method of distribution emphasizes that the care of patients with chronic health conditions is a team effort.” Swieskowski also leads Catholic Health Initiatives’ Ambulatory Quality Improvement Committee, which is working to spread best practices in ambulatory care throughout the system. For more information, contact David Swieskowski at dswieskowski@mercydesmoines.org.