Editor's Note: which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Glen Stream, MD, FAAFP, MBI, a family physician practicing in La Quinta, California, who is also past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He serves as the president and board chair of Family Medicine for America’s Health. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of or UBM Medica.
When it comes to promoting investment in primary care, Oregon might very well be the country’s current champion innovator.
Over the past eight years, the state has put a priority on primary care, putting in place a series of policies that recognize the central role primary care plays in achieving the triple aim of improving patient health and quality of care while lowering costs.
The latest example: legislation that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently signed into law that will require all commercial insurers in the state to invest a minimum of 12% of their total medical expenditures in primary care by the year 2023. In urging support for the legislation, its backers pointed to evidence showing that increased spending on primary care infrastructure “results in better health outcomes for patients and savings in the form of reduced specialist referrals, unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations.”
That’s not just wishful thinking. An initiative that’s been in place for several years—Oregon’s Patient-Centered Primary Care Home program—has already saved the state millions of dollars, roughly $13 in savings for every $1 increase in primary care spending.
Oregon is not alone.
In Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield leads one of the oldest—and largest—patient-centered medical home programs. Its 4,534 primary care doctors at 1,638 practices have led a transformation of care that has resulted in a 15% decrease in adult visits to emergency departments and a 21% decrease in ambulatory care-sensitive inpatient stays, according to a recent report.
The by the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative and the Robert Graham Center notes that it’s become “widely accepted that primary care practice transformation and delivery are essential to achieving the nation’s quadruple aim – improving patient and provider experience and the health of the population while decreasing cost.”
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Another program, Covered California, the state’s official health insurance exchange, is working with 11 health plans to promote and enhance primary care for the 1.4 million individuals currently enrolled through the exchange and another 600,000 covered by plans off the exchange. The initiative also has the potential to reach another 21 million people the plans cover beyond the individual market.