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US health care is in the midst of a paradigm shift—away from the fee-for-service payment structure, in which providers are rewarded solely by the volume of services provided, and toward a structure that holds providers accountable for patient outcomes and costs.

This move to value-based care is intended to advance the goals of health care’s "triple aim"—improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction), bettering the health of populations, and reducing the per-capita cost of health care. Physical therapists (PTs) must quickly identify opportunities to become engaged in value-based payment models. Otherwise, they will be left behind, with lasting ill effects on their practices.

Value-based payment models often are referred to as alternative payment models (APMs). An APM is a payment approach that offers incentives to providers to collaborate to provide high-quality and cost-efficient care. APMs can apply to a specific clinical condition, a care episode, or a population.

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  1. Better Care. Smarter Spending. Healthier People: Paying Providers for Value, Not Volume. Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; 2015. https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2015-Fact-sheets-items/2015-01-26-3.html. Accessed July 14, 2017.

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