Depending on how you look at it, the future of the health care system can seem grim.
With health care costs continuing to rise and our aging population using more medical
care, health care cost inflation is poised to go from bad to worse, eating up 16
percent of gross domestic product in 2007 and a projected 20 percent by 2015.
Against such powerful trends, what can you, your doctor, or even HMSA hope to do?
The answer is simple, and it’s a goal we all share: keep you as healthy as
possible. We aim to do that because it’s our mission; we care about you and
want you to have the best quality of life possible.
There’s an added cost benefit, too. You might think that keeping people healthy
costs a lot of money. But in fact, healthy people cost less to care for than sick
people. And sick people cost less to care for than chronically ill people.
If we – you, your primary care doctor, and HMSA – can work together
to keep you healthier, we can achieve our mission and help shield the health care
system from runaway cost increases while improving the quality of the care you receive.
And HMSA has been working with doctors on a plan to do just that – it’s
called the patient-centered medical home, or PCMH.
A patient-centered medical home is not a physical building. It’s a way to
care for patients so that you feel “at home” with your care.
It’s been proven that when you enjoy a long, continuous history with your
primary care doctor, you are healthier and have lower health care costs. Diseases
can be prevented or caught early, when treating them costs less and before they
cause big problems. When you have a good relationship with your primary care doctor,
you tend to be better informed and have a healthy lifestyle. So the goal of a patient-centered
medical home is to help doctors do what they do best: care for you. That means we
need to give doctors the support they need so they can focus on caring for patients.
A report by the American Journal of Public Health found that a primary care physician
would need 22.6 hours a day to complete all of the work expected of them. So it’s
not surprising that tasks such as follow-up care for minor ailments and keeping
track of patients who need preventive screenings may sometimes fall through the
HMSA’s patient-centered medical home helps primary care doctors change their
practices to provide the best care for their patients. Primary care doctors lead
teams of providers who all work together to meet your personal health care needs
(a specialist here, a nutritionist there). The team may include other staff members
and health and wellness organizations that provide education, screenings, and other
New reports with detailed analysis of claims data help identify patients who need
screenings, follow-up visits, and immunizations. And the use of new technology improves
efficiency and communication so you’ll have more information and better access
to your care team.
So what changes for patients? The truth is, you may already be in a patient-centered
medical home and not even know it. Or you might notice that you get more calls or
emails from your doctor’s office, either to remind you about an appointment
or to follow up on a recent appointment or lab test. A wellness coach may contact
you on behalf of your doctor to invite you to attend a health workshop or screening.
And you’ll find that when you’re feeling at home with your health care,
it’s easier than ever to take an active role to manage your health and well-being.
After all, the most important person on the care team is you, the patient. That’s
why it’s called a patient-centered medical home.
Whatever changes you may or may not notice, you can rest assured that your doctor
and HMSA are working together to make sure you get the best care possible. And as
more doctors sign up to expand patient-centered medical homes in Hawai‘i,
our health care system will grow stronger, improving health and decreasing costs.
That’s the brighter future we see for Hawai‘i.