Charleston Post and Courier
April 11, 2009
Diabetics focus of medical-home pilot
By Jill Coley
A medical home is more than your doctor's office. It is a comprehensive approach to medicine, with one source coordinating the full range of patient care. And that concept is gaining traction in the Lowcountry.
Palmetto Primary Care Physicians, a large Charleston area primary practice, along with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, is launching a year-long pilot project designed to give 1,500 diabetic patients a medical home.
Ron Piccione, chief executive officer of Palmetto Primary, said "We're incorporating other individuals into the mix to assist doctor and patient in communication, education and resources."
The project will focus on members of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina and the state health plan. There is no co-payment or extra charge to patients.
Piccione said Palmetto Primary, which has 18 clinics in the tri-county area, also is working to bring on board other carriers, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Other chronic conditions also might be considered in the future, he said.
The American Medical Association endorsed the medical home concept in 2008, and experts have for years lauded the patient-centered approach as a way to reduce costs and improve outcomes in treating patients with chronic disease.
Diabetes costs the U.S. $174 billion, or $1 out of $5 spent on health care, according to an article in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. The journal published the results of a 10-city diabetes challenge, which included Charleston.
Researchers found that diabetics who worked with pharmacists, who were contracted through employers, reduced care costs by $1,079 annually, and patients saved an average of $593 per year on medications and supplies.
Participants met regularly with trained pharmacist coaches to help them track their disease and communicate with their physicians, referring patients as needed to other health care providers.
In the Palmetto Primary pilot project, case managers will work to reduce gaps in care, such as missed appointments with specialists, lack of transportation and taking medication properly. They also will perform outreach, such as registering patients for wellness clinics.
Electronic medical records will be critical to the project, integrating information from the health plan, case manager and local emergency rooms.