Friday, August 12, 2011

Working with Partners to Improve Health Care

Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m a fervent believer and advocate that significant change is the only way of escaping the quagmire we face in America’s healthcare system.  While we’re making some of these changes across the GBMC HealthCare system, we need more people in the boat with us to buy into the redesign of healthcare.

The state of Maryland has an overriding concern in making healthcare affordable and in insuring those who cannot insure themselves. The biggest part of the State budget dilemma this year was the cost of Medicaid.  Comptroller Peter Franchot recently visited GBMC at Hunt Valley – one of our 9 GBMA employed primary care sites (4 on campus and 5 off-site in the county) to see the innovations in action and learn how we are becoming more patient-centered and better able to coordinate the care of chronic disease.

There’s been an astronomical degree of change at the Hunt Valley practice to achieve better health and better care at lower cost. This is a trial site for our Greater Baltimore Medical Associates (GBMA) practices and it’s going very well.

GBMC is a great organization that has done great things but we want to be part of the local, regional and national healthcare solution.  Joining me from GBMC in meeting with Comptroller Franchot were our new Board Chairman Harry Johnson, and Dr. Mark Lamos, medical director of GBMA’s primary care physicians.

During the past six months, more than 8,000 paper medical records have been converted into electronic format; the practice has expanded its hours offering early mornings and later evening appointments to make healthcare more convenient for patients; and staff members have begun pre-appointment calls in the evenings and chart reviews to ensure all necessary labwork and other tests are completed in advance of a patient’s appointment. Hunt Valley has evening group visits for diabetic patients so they can learn from each other.  Thirty percent of appointments are available the day a patient calls, yet the slots are almost always 100 percent filled. CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield has also recognized the problems facing healthcare and is working closely with Hunt Valley as the practice has been redesigned into a level three Patient Centered Medical Home.

We were all very pleased that the comptroller seemed genuinely interested in learning more about how we are working to drive the waste out of healthcare and change from a transactional “fee for service” system of medicine to one based on preventative care and better coordination of chronic care. While currently there are no mechanisms in Maryland to reward systems for keeping patients out of hospitals, we’re hoping the state might recognize that we are pioneers and work with us as we continue redesigning care.

On a related note about the challenges facing healthcare, it was sad to see my colleague Jeff Norman last week announce his departure from St. Joseph Medical Center. While our careers in Baltimore only intersected for a short while, I grew to know Jeff as a professional of the highest level of ethics and trust and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Do you have questions or comments? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

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