Mini Medical Homes Open Door to Disease-Based Patient-Centered Care

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

Call it Medical Homes 2.0: disease-specific ‘mini’ medical homes for high-risk, high cost patients with chronic diseases.

“We do see a trend right now with the medical home; especially in the Medicare area where the patient is assessed up front,” noted Steve T. Valentine during HIN’s eighth annual healthcare industry forecast. This approach generally focuses on but is not limited to the ‘big five’ chronic diseases: ischemic heart disease, diabetes, COPD, asthma and heart failure, Valentine said.

“For example, let’s just pick diabetics and move them into their own mini medical home. They would have a multidisciplinary team focused around those complex patients,” said the president of The Camden Group. “We see that as a bigger change that’s beginning to come. This model does help with throughput in terms of primary care in the medical home.

“A focus on population management and delivering superior value become critical strategies as we begin to move forward,” Valentine predicted during the healthcare publisher’s annual industry forecast.

The disease-specific approach is gaining followers as the industry navigates away from a fee-for-service environment toward a more evidence-based, protocol-driven approach that rewards not only clinical outcomes but an organization’s ability to deliver value-based healthcare.

HealthCare Partners Medical Group of California, which is experiencing its lowest hospital readmission rates in its history, uses a predictive modeling tool, a dollar tool predictor, and a hierarchical condition categories (HCC) or HCC-like modeling tool to risk-stratify their patients before placing them in the medical home that best suits their needs, explains Dr. Stuart Levine, corporate medical director.

This could be hospice and palliative care, or a home care program where teams of physicians, nurse practitioners, case managers and social workers take care of chronically frail patients at home, meeting all of their needs, Dr. Levine said.

HealthCarePartners also has a medical home program for patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). “All patients are seen at the dialysis center, and that’s where their medical home is. They no longer come into offices. They are seen by nurse practitioners with backup nephrologists.

“They’re not only getting their renal disease managed, but way more importantly, they’re getting all their primary care needs met.”

Some diabetes-focused medical homes are being constructed with a little help from corporate sponsors. The GE Foundation recently awarded a $3M grant to establish a Care Management Medical Home Center for 10,000 Miami Dade patients suffering from chronic diabetes and its costly and debilitating side effects. The grant is part of the GE Foundation’s Developing Health initiative.

The grant will enable Health Choice Network of Florida and its seven participating health centers to provide a centralized model staffed with medical professionals who will assist the health center teams in providing high quality, effective and efficient care management services that will decrease costly hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

In addition to the new jobs the funding will add, the center will leverage existing data warehouse infrastructure and electronic medical records to deploy real-time disease-specific patient panels, identify health trends and expects to improve diabetic patient outcomes by 10 to 20 percent in the first year.

The Camden (N.J.) Coalition of Healthcare Providers and the Cooper Foundation will receive $3.45 million over five years from the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation to strengthen community-based components of its Camden Citywide Diabetes Collaborative care model by focusing on patient self-management, education and support, care coordination, food access and physical activity programs, and behavioral health and community engagement activities in order to bend the curve of the diabetes burden and healthcare costs in the city.

One of the goals of the diabetes collaborative is to Increase the capacity of community-based, primary care practices to provide comprehensive, proactive care to their patients with diabetes.

The Camden collaborative was one of eight organizations to receive grants from the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation grants.

The mini medical home approach is not limited to the big five chronic diseases. Last week, Priority Health and Cancer and Hematology Centers of West Michigan (CHCWM) announced their intention to jointly explore an innovative oncology patient-centered medical home. The goal of the oncology medical home is to integrate and coordinate the many office visits, medical professionals, high-tech services and care decisions encountered by cancer patients to help streamline their care while ensuring better outcomes, Priority Health said in a press release.

“This project is a natural evolution of our extensive experience with medical homes,” said John Fox, M.D., Priority Health’s associate vice president of medical affairs. “Cancer patients experience complex medical needs and rely on an extensive network of interdisciplinary healthcare specialists. Having a medical home can ensure cancer patients receive optimal care.”

Both organizations have agreed to payment reforms and care enhancements. Under this new model, oncologists will be paid a care management fee and will share in savings resulting from reductions in emergency room visits, imaging and hospitalizations. Current fee structures pay physicians based on the costs of drugs administered, which results in higher payments for more costly drugs, not necessarily the physician’s time, expertise or resource utilization.

The care management fee will go directly for patient support services, such as end-of-life and financial counseling, case management, medication therapy management, survivorship programs and social work services.

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