Partner with PCPs to maximize compliant risk adjustment yield

Payers are under a lot of pressure to optimize risk adjustment and compliant yield in light of the CMS Risk Adjustment Data Validation (RADV) Final Rule and Final Rate Notice issued earlier this year. A recent webinar for members of the RISE Association focused on how payers can partner with PCPs to accomplish both.  

Presenter Brian Williams, MD, is medical director of optimization at Northeast Medical Group in Mystic, Conn., part of the Yale New Haven health system. He is immersed in the system’s transition to value-based care (VBC), with 230,000 patients in shared savings or cost-sharing agreements.   

Dr. Williams was joined by Michael Rosenfeld, VP of business development for Vatica Health. Michael shared case studies from payers and providers who have benefited from collaboration to maximize compliant risk adjustment yield and close care gaps.  

You can read highlights of their discussion here or watch the webinar.

Legacy models for risk adjustment that work around PCPs, such as retrospective chart reviews and home assessments, are fraught with issues. Dr. Williams and Michael agreed that the ideal process is PCP-centric, providing dedicated resources, data and integration into the PCP’s existing workflow. Dr. Williams added that the most effective ways to engage providers are for payers to have a dedicated provider engagement staff and offer aligned incentives, provider education about clinical documentation and easy-to-use technology.

The role of provider-centric risk adjustment technology is to support the patient-PCP relationship by empowering compliant code capture, improved utilization management, patient adherence and holistic care. The technology should present high-confidence conditions from the EMR and claims data, deliver timely and actionable data and facilitate a complete and accurate coding exercise. It should not contribute to alert fatigue or require the provider to go back to the EMR to verify information. This approach improves provider and patient satisfaction and helps ensure better care coordination and the closure of care gaps.

Michael noted that working with community providers can mean multiple EMRs, limited staff and infrastructure, and competing priorities. To maximize their performance, payers can provide solutions that are easy to use and supported by clinical and administrative teams, while educating them on the importance of risk adjustment to drive optimal patient care.

Dr. Williams offered advice on how payers can assist busy PCPs on risk and quality initiatives. “It helps to have a lot of the work done before it’s presented to us. Make sure that we are working as a team. Then physicians can use their training and clinical decision making to do the assessment. Do the work that you can do as a payer,” he said. “You have to reimburse physicians for the time and effort they are spending on this work. Then make sure the clinicians have appropriate resources to help them learn to navigate whatever solutions it is.”

He cited actions that are not helpful to PCPs, including interruption to the clinical workflow, any interference of time spent with the patient, interruption of the practice’s revenue cycle or overburdening of staff.

Dr. Williams also noted that PCPs are taking on more administrative responsibilities unrelated to why they chose the profession. Payers can help make them feel valued by paying PCPs fairly and quickly and “staying in their lane,” that is, handling what is appropriate for payers to handle while not carving PCPs out of care decisions.

“A payer solution was our first real ‘toe in the water’ toward value-based care,” he noted. “Part of the success we’ve had comes from sharing the organization savings with the clinicians. They understand that the work is valuable. They take it seriously. We don’t have to force them. They’ve also become very skilled at it because they received good education and support to do this work.

“Our HCC recapture rates for fiscal year 2022 were over 95%,” Dr. Williams continued. “We have categorized our patients into seven categories of risk. We understand very clearly what patients’ risk for hospitalization and serious illness is based on which risk category they fall into. We have begun to use those risk categories to direct our resources. We’re seeing lower hospitalization rates for those patients that we’re using this algorithm for. That’s encouraging.”

Dr. Williams noted that NEMG has several payer programs in place; Vatica has the highest participation and highest user satisfaction. “It’s integrated with our EMR and that information becomes part of the patient’s care going forward.” Leveraging EMR data is critical, as many other solutions rely on claims data which can be stale and less accurate.

Vatica’s prospective solution pairs clinical staff and technology to assist physicians with coding and documentation. Clients have seen an average of 25%+ improvement in accuracy and specificity and 37% higher gap closure rate. “Our coding team reviews 100% of the information documented by providers to ensure it meets standards for clinical validation,” Michael added. “Nothing gets sent to our payer or provider partners that hasn’t been reviewed in a multi-step process to ensure that it meets compliance standards and protects our clients from audit risk.“

Michael reviewed a case study with a regional Blue Cross client that showed total incremental HCC revenue of over $100 million based on 44,600 annual encounters. It’s important to note that strong financial results are due to more accurate and complete coding and documentation.

He also shared data from a provider client who completed Vatica visits for 73% of 47,000 eligible patients in a year. During those visits, Vatica detected more than 73,000 open care gaps for physician review and helped physicians accurately identify and code diabetes with chronic complications, increasing the rate from a 4.74% baseline to 19.19% in one year.

For more information on how Vatica can help payers support PCPs to maximize compliant risk adjustment yield and quality of care, visit