By now, you know that CMS has officially discontinued PQRS for 2017—and, because PTs, OTs, and SLPs aren’t eligible to participate in MIPS (PQRS’s more comprehensive replacement program) until 2019, rehab therapists aren’t required to complete this type of quality data reporting for at least the next two years. For many providers, this has been cause for celebration, and I don’t blame any therapist who took a big sigh of relief at the news. WebPT has been a certified PQRS registry for years now, and even from that perspective, PQRS has been a complicated nut to crack. Quite frankly, it’s been a pain. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the effort. And it certainly doesn’t mean that our industry should sit back on its haunches for the next two years while the rest of the healthcare community gets to contribute to one of the largest-scale data-collection efforts in recent history.
After all, in 2019, we’re going to have to pick the ball back up anyway. And while we’ll just be starting out, Medicare—and potentially other payers, agencies, and organizations—may already be using data from the rest of the healthcare community to inform new payment and regulatory incentives. That could essentially leave us in the dust—unless, of course, we pick up the pace ourselves. Because whether or not CMS decides to let rehab therapists participate in MIPS on a voluntary basis, I believe that therapists must make sure they collect quality data of some sort. It may not be through PQRS, MIPS, or any other federally mandated program (although, to be clear, FLR is still in effect), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rehab therapists have plenty of other options when it comes to collecting data that tells the story of their value (in fact, patient-reported outcomes may actually prove more effective than PQRS ever was). And these data collection efforts become even more powerful when we—as an industry—unite around them.
And don’t we want that? Don’t we want to come together to glean powerful, actionable insights that will help us demonstrate—and improve—the value we provide to not only our patients, but also the entire healthcare community? If so, we must collect, analyze, and compare that data consistently. This reprieve from mandatory data reporting might very well be our opportunity to finally slow things down enough that we can regroup and develop a realistic, doable, and thoughtful plan of action for collecting—and more importantly, analyzing and leveraging—quality data that will empower us to improve our individual practices as well as our profession. It’s a big endeavor—I know—but it’s also an incredibly important one. Regardless of how comfortable you are with the concept of switching to a value-based payment paradigm, it’s going to happen; you can’t avoid it.
So, if you’ve been secretly—or not so secretly—cheering at the demise of PQRS, I encourage you to consider how a massive data gap could impact the future of our profession. Where will we be left if we don’t keep up? In this video, Tim Flynn, PT, PhD, says that data doesn’t change behavior—and it doesn’t. But it can help inspire change. Because if we harness the power of the data we collect, then we can tell a different story about our value: an objective, data-backed story about the incredible outcomes we help our patients achieve every day. And that could change behavior, because there are literally millions of people out there who are restoring function and living better, longer lives as a direct result of our skilled intervention. Don’t you think it’s about damn time the rest of the world knows that?
As I mentioned in this founder letter, this call to action goes well beyond performing an additional test or two—and submitting extra codes. This is about declaring ourselves experts in treating patients with pain and musculoskeletal issues. This is about demanding that we be included in significant legislation that impacts the healthcare community at large—legislation like MIPS and MACRA. This is about disrupting the current medical model that favors prescribing dangerous, invasive treatments like surgery and opioids when better, more cost-effective treatment options exist. This is about building a better future—for ourselves, our patients, and generations of rehab therapists to come.
About the Author
Heidi Jannenga PT, DPT, ATC/L is the president and co-founder of WebPT, the leading practice management solution for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Heidi leads WebPT’s product vision, company culture, and branding efforts, while advocating for the physical therapy profession on a national scale. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has since guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent rehab therapy businesses, speaks as a subject-matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. In 2014, Heidi was appointed to the PT-PAC Board of Trustees. She also serves as a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice rehab therapy professionals.
Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a lifelong fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and exercise physiology, went on to earn her master’s degree in physical therapy at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and obtained her doctorate of physical therapy through Evidence in Motion. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.