What would happen if laboratory employees could earn a bonus each year if physicians did a better job of using laboratory testing to measurably improve the health of their patients? That idea is not far removed from a just-announced employee bonus program at WellPoint, Inc., the nation’s largest health insurance company.

Under its new company-wide employee incentive program, 5% of the current bonuses paid to WellPoint employees will be based on whether the company meets specific goals for screening and treatment of its 34 million beneficiaries. Every employee at the company is eligible for this bonus incentive and WellPoint’s strategy is to increase the attention and efforts by employees to improve the health of beneficiaries.

A range of patient health targets are included the measures to be used to trigger bonus payouts. These include screening rates for certain types of cancer, pediatric vaccination rates, and patient adherence to prescription drug protocols, among others. Even hospital visits for congestive heart failure and asthma will be monitored.

Other good news for the laboratory industry from WellPoint’s new bonus initiative is the effort to increase the use of certain laboratory tests for such things as cholesterol screening. WellPoint’s Chief Medical Officer, Sam Nussbaum, M.D., noted that WellPoint has eight million beneficiaries who are at an age where they should have cholesterol screens. Yet medical utilization data within the company reveals that cholesterol screens have only been performed for 3.5 million of these members.

Dark Daily observes that the new program will certainly raise the visibility of these benchmark measures among WellPoint’s 42,000 employees. After all, people always seem to pay close attention to things that can affect their pay either positively or negatively.

What is a more interesting speculation is to ask this question: If WellPoint offered a 5% reimbursement “bonus” to its laboratory providers whenever its medical utilization data showed that the rate of appropriate use of laboratory screening tests had improved by its physician-providers, would this trigger significant gains in the desired outcomes? Such a financial incentive has a high probability of triggering improvements that benefit patients.

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