Posted by Marc Lichtenstein
“Patient-Centered Medicine” almost sounds like an unnecessary statement. After all, isn’t the practice of all medicine “patient-centered”? The answer is both yes, and no. Medicine may be practiced on the patient, but it has traditionally been more of a treatment-centered approach: where the disease or injury is more the center of attention.
Patient-Centered Medicine, practiced as coordinated care, is better for the individual patient because it focuses on improving the quality of their treatment outcome. And coordinated care is better for the overall healthcare system because it reduces inefficiencies and lowers costs—where cost savings are a byproduct of this coordination, not the reason for doing it—making quality healthcare accessible to more people.
This is the dawn of the “Patient-Centered Medical Era.”
One of the most transformative developments in care delivery recently has been the emergence of The Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH). The PCMH is an innovation that exemplifies the concept of putting the patient in the center of a coordinated care delivery team. The PCMH is a model of healthcare based on an ongoing, personal relationship between a patient, doctor and the rest of the patient's care team. Whatever the medical needs – primary or secondary, preventive care, acute care, chronic care, or end-of-life care – the patient has a medical "home"—a single, trusted doctor and care team, through which continuous, comprehensive and integrated care is provided.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have long been working with doctors and hospitals in their local communities to develop patient-centered solutions that better manage chronic illnesses, enhance the practice and delivery of primary care, and invest in the primary care workforce. And there are real-life examples of how this coordinated, team-based approach is transforming the patient experience.
CareFirst developed a patient-centered program to help train local care-coordinators and assign them to help patients manage their daily lives better while in treatment, empowering them to participate in their own care more effectively and help improve their health outcomes.
One care manager in the program tells the story of a patient who went to bed and literally woke up blind. Overnight, this man’s world had shifted. His wife worked, and so he was left at home daily, with water to drink and a sandwich for lunch. The nurse care manager intervened and set up services available to the patient while his wife was at work. Through the care manager the patient now had help for his daily living activities in the home and received transportation that allowed him to go to a local program for the blind.
Horizon’s patient-centered program is also providing coordinated care services and using proactive patient-outreach to improve their members’ health outcomes.
A care-coordinator in the program recalls when they discovered that a 42-year-old patient that had not been into the office for an exam for quite some time. The nurse coordinator called and spent time with her to ensure an appointment was scheduled. During the appointment, the patient mentioned some recent chest pain. An EKG was done in the office and within a few weeks, she had 3 stent changes. In a call back to the Nurse coordinator, the patient said, “Thank you – you saved my life”.
Patient-Centered Medicine is leading the transformation in improving care delivery. When we put the focus on quality—quality care, quality care delivery networks, quality data intelligence, quality measures for safety and efficacy, quality business practices—performance improves and patients get the best care possible.