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Health > More Health StoriesWinter 2012 IS Magazine2/22/12 IS Online

Patient-Centered Medical Home Focuses on You

HMSA’s new model of patient care can improve quality and slow health care inflation.

By Eric Shearer

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 cracks.

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 support.

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.

Island Scene Online is not intended to replace the advice of health care professionals. Please consult your physician for your personal needs and before making any changes in your lifestyle.
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