Experts tout role of patient-centered care

TUPELO – Mississippi family doctors got a double dose of the vision for remaking primary care this weekend.
Dr. Paul Grundy, director of healthcare for IBM, and Dr. Bruce Bagley, the medical director for the American Academy of Family Physicians, delivered talks on the patient-centered medical home concept at the fall conference of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians in Tupelo.
“Patients who have a relationship with their primary care provider are more empowered to take preventive measures,” said Grundy, who also is president of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative. “Patients want healing relationships.”
The evolution of American medicine has focused on acute health care crises and specialization. The result has been a system where care is poorly coordinated and preventive services aren’t as effective as they could be, Grundy said.
“My cat gets reminders on his immunizations,” Grundy said. “My wife doesn’t.”
Primary care has been at a disadvantage because the current pay model focuses on procedures, not on coordinating care and managing chronic conditions like diabetes.
Strengthening primary care and preventive medicine is a key component of health care reform.
“I think we’re close to a care-based payment,” said Bagley on Saturday. “I’ve never seen it more hopeful.”
Some components of patient-centered medical home include:
– Flexible and convenient scheduling for patients,
– Easy communication with medical team by phone and e-mail,
– Smart use of electronic medical records and other tools, and
– Team approach so doctors spend their time effectively and patients get well-coordinated care.
Although the preventive process is more intensive on the front end, it can be very effective in managing chronic health issues and preventing complications that are very costly both in terms of money and human suffering, Grundy said.
Pilot programs using medical home models have seen wonderful results like significant reduction in hospitalization of people with asthma in North Carolina and $500 per patient annual savings for diabetes patients in North Dakota, Grundy said.
“If you really want to drive change, realign how to money flows,” Grundy said.
Although there’s much disagreement about the role government should pay in health care and who should pay for health care reform, both law makers and the general public are singing off the same sheet when it comes to what they want to see from primary care doctors.
“They want better access, communication and empowerment to improve their health … there’s not a lot of disagreement,” Grundy said.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal