Diagnostic accuracy is essential for treatment decisions but is largely unaccounted for by payers, including in fee-for-service Medicare and proposed Alternative Payment Models (APMs). We discuss three payment-related approaches to reducing diagnostic error. First, coding changes in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule could facilitate the more effective use of teamwork and information technology in the diagnostic process and better support the cognitive work and time commitment that physicians make in the quest for diagnostic accuracy, especially in difficult or uncertain cases. Second, new APMs could be developed to focus on improving diagnostic accuracy in challenging cases and make available support resources for diagnosis, including condition-specific centers of diagnostic expertise or general diagnostic centers of excellence that provide second (or even third) opinions. Performing quality improvement activities that promote safer diagnosis should be a part of the accountability of APM recipients. Third, the accuracy of diagnoses that trigger APM payments and establish payment amounts should be confirmed by APM recipients. Implementation of these multipronged approaches can make current payment models more accountable for addressing diagnostic error and position diagnostic performance as a critical component of quality-based payment.
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