Study Finds Medical Homes Help Lower Health Care Costs, Maintain Quality

Kaiser Health News: "Some health policy experts and clinicians have long maintained that, in the effort to reduce health care costs and improve patient outcomes, there's no place like (a medical) home. A new study in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs seems to validate that notion. Medical homes — where primary care doctors are held responsible for coordinating care for individual patients – are seen as a model for lowering costs without sacrificing quality. ... Dr. Rob Reid and colleagues from the Group Health Research Institute examined the costs and patient outcomes from a team of medical professionals providing care for 10,000 patients at a Seattle-area Group Health 'medical home.' The conclusion? The medical home produced significant cost savings. For example, during the two years studied, the team's patients had 29 percent fewer ER visits and 6 percent fewer hospitalizations compared with other Group Health clinic patients. There were start-up costs — $16 per patient per year — and results took a couple years to provide the bulk of the savings. But, ultimately, Reid said that for every $1 it invested in the system, Group Health saved $1.50 by keeping patients out of the ER and the hospital. And the medical home patients 'reported better care experiences' as well" (Villegas, 5/4).

ModernHealthcare: "Provisions in recently approved healthcare laws, including this year's health reform act, will lead to a resurgence in primary care, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a meeting sponsored by Health Affairs in Washington. 'There's no question that the legislation put in place since January 2009 will usher in a new era for primary-care providers,' Sebelius said. ... The current system 'is horribly broken,' stuck in a bygone era where physicians are paid only for in-person visits, said Susan Dentzer, Health Affairs' editor-in-chief, during the meeting" (Lubell, 5/4).

Triangle Business Journal: "Doctors going into primary care will earn about $2.7 million less over their lifetime than those who choose specialty fields, according to a new Duke University study [published in Health Affairs]. The nation is facing a growing shortage of primary care physicians, and the fact that primary care physicians earn less than specialists is among the main reasons so few medical students choose the field." The study took into account "years of schooling and work, student debt, income and investment income potential. Based on the study's calculations, a physician who entered medical school at the age of 23 and practiced medicine until the age of 65, could potentially accumulate $5.2 million in lifetime wealth as a cardiologist but only $2.5 million as a family medicine or internal medicine doctor" (Gallagher, 5/4).

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