Exploring the Effect of At-Risk Case Management Compensation on Hospital Pay-for-Performance Outcomes: Tools for Change

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Acute care nurse case managers are charged with compliance oversight, managing throughput, and ensuring safe care transitions. Leveraging the roles of nurse case managers and social workers during care transitions translates into improved fiscal performance under the Affordable Care Act. This article aims to equip leaders in the field of case management with tools to facilitate the alignment of case management systems with hospital pay-for-performance measures. A quality improvement project was implemented at a hospital in south Alabama to examine the question: for acute care case managers, what is the effect of key performance indictors using an at-risk compensation model in comparison to past nonincentive models on hospital readmissions, lengths of stay, and patient satisfaction surrounding the discharge process.

Primary Practice Setting(s):

Inpatient acute care hospital.


The implementation of an at-risk compensation model using key performance indicators, Lean Six Sigma methodology, and Creative Health Care Management's Relationship-Based Care framework demonstrated reduced length of stay, hospital readmissions, and improved patient experiences.

Implications for Case Management:

Regulatory changes and new models of reimbursement in the acute care environment have created the perfect storm for case management leaders. Hospital fiscal performance is dependent on effective case management processes and the ability to optimize scarce resources. The quality improvement project aimed to further align case management systems and structures with hospital pay-for-performance measures. Tools for change were presented to assist leaders with the change acceleration process.

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