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NCH Medical Group Launches Medical Home Program to Keep Patients Healthier and Costs Down

Thu August 18 2011 6:40 pm  http://www.arlingtoncardinal.com/?p=46748
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Many healthcare facilities work effectively to get people well after they get sick, but the NCH Medical Group is aiming to keep people healthier in the first place and help control healthcare costs. That’s why a team of primary care doctors at four northwest suburban medical offices has launched a patient-centered Medical Home program – a focused approach to providing comprehensive care for higher-risk patients.

“You have to look at the bigger picture, the whole person, and not just the particular reason they made an appointment with the doctor today,” said Debbie Duntemann, a Medical Home nurse coordinating the program. “It’s a change in philosophy. We’re being more aggressive about getting patients in to see the doctor regularly.”

The Medical Home approach is proactive disease management, where clinicians pay even closer attention to their sicker patients – such as those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease – with the goal of limiting future illnesses and avoiding serious complications. Patients get educated about their condition, more involved in their care, and kept on track for medical tests and procedures they might not even know they needed. It all keeps the patient feeling better, while reducing their healthcare costs.

“Physicians and patients develop a long-term relationship that’s more engaging on both ends,” Duntemann said. “It leads to regular doctor visits and fewer hospital stays.”

While the Medical Home model has been around for decades, few Illinois medical practices are currently implementing it. In September, the NCH Medical Group will have 7,500 higher-risk patients – specifically with PPO insurance coverage through BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois – in its expanded Medical Home program.

“While we’ve always provided exceptional care to our patients, the Medical Home model allows us to improve the continuity of care and take more preventive measures, and that leads to better health in the long run,” said Debra Korff, director of NCH Medical Group operations.

A key component of a Medical Home is an electronic medical records system. It enables doctors to see a patient’s treatment history and make informed recommendations, as well as avoid duplicate tests and X-rays.

To the patient, a transition to a Medical Home program is not noticeable. The change rests with the medical group’s doctors and nurses who are taking the time to consider the whole patient, make proactive phone calls to set appointments, actively assist with recommendations to see specialists, and monitor medical histories.

“Many of our patients may also need to see an endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist or gynecologist, and we can help coordinate that care as their Medical Home,” Duntemann said.

The NCH Medical Group has physician offices in Arlington Heights (2), Buffalo Grove and Mount Prospect. For more details about its healthy approach to patient care, visit nchmedicalgroup.com.

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