Episodic payments (bundling): PART I

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Episodic, or bundled payments, is a concept now familiar to most in the healthcare arena, but the models are often misunderstood. Under a traditional fee-for-service model, each provider bills separately for their services which creates financial incentives to maximise volumes. Under a bundled payment, a single entity, often referred to as a convener (maybe the hospital, the physician group, or a third party) assumes the risk through a payer contract for all services provided within a defined episode of care, and receives a single (bundled) payment for all services provided for that episode. The time frame around the intervention is variable, but defined in advance, as are included and excluded costs. Timing of the actual payment in a bundle may either be before the episode occurs (prospective payment model), or after the end of the episode through a reconciliation (retrospective payment model). In either case, the defined costs over the defined time frame are borne by the convener.

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