Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
September, 2nd 2009

Following is a guest post from Dr. Michael Soman, detailing experiences from the Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative’s Medical Home Program:

Has your doctor ever e-mailed you back in 20 minutes when you shot him a note with an urgent question? Many patients at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle have had that experience — and they are also getting same-day visits with their doctors, having phone visits when that is what they want, and spending more time with their physicians when they come in for face to face visits.

Patients here are also receiving extensive health care coverage for all of their prevention, acute, and chronic illness needs.

There’s a lot of national attention on the medical home model as a way to help solve the U.S. primary care shortage, improve health outcomes, and control costs for our patients. There are now 25 medical home projects active in 17 states.

We are seeing real results from our medical home model at Group Health, which serves nearly 600,000 people in Washington and northern Idaho. Our two year pilot at a clinic of 9,200 patients provides some of the nation’s first evidence of the benefits of this new primary care model.

The September American Journal of Managed Care spells out benefits experienced by our patients as we examined areas of the patient experience, utilization and cost, clinical quality, and staff engagement.

Patients in our medical home used more e-mail (94 percent more), phone (12 percent more), and group visits and self-management support workshops to get their medical questions answered and supplement their “usual care”. We saw:

• 29 percent fewer emergency room visits
• 11 percent fewer hospitalizations (not statistically significant) for “ambulatory sensitive conditions”
• Almost two times the improvement in clinical quality compared to comparator clinics
• Only 10 percent of the doctors, nurses, and staff reported feeling “burned out” or emotionally exhausted, compared to 30 percent of staff at control clinics

With our medical home model, health care quality at Group Health has improved, patients receive much-needed screening tests, and we also help them manage chronic diseases and monitor their medications. This enables Group Health to deliver better care at no additional cost, and that’s real progress.

Dr. Michael Soman is President and Chief Medical Executive of Group Health Physicians.

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