Central Valley Project To Improve Health Costs, Outcomes Appears To Be Paying Off

A pilot project to improve the management of chronic disease and reduce health care spending has resulted in nearly a million dollars in savings over 12 months for a Central Valley school district.

The Fresno Unified Joint Health Management Board worked with the California Academy of Family Physicians in late 2010 to launch a patient-centered medical home initiative with a primary care medical group, Community Medical Providers.

The pilot project took 18 months of preparation and training, but the effort was worth it, said Catherine Direen, a media consultant for the California Academy of Family Physicians. It covered about 2,500 patients, 10% of the district's beneficiaries. The cost of total claims decreased by 9% and the gross savings was $972,519. This was due in part to fewer emergency department and hospital visits and more patients adhering to their medications, she said.

"Implementing it is a huge deal, but the payoff was really quick," Direen said. "It's a well-proven model." 

The medical home model focuses on several critical factors such as data-driven improvement, population management, continuity of care and prompt access to care.

"It's really a different way of taking care of the patient. It gets the whole office involved," said Grant Nakamura, medical director for Community Medical Providers. "Part of it is making sure patients have access to the office and are seen in a timely fashion. The other part is developing registries so you know who all your diabetics are and you know which ones you need to control," he said.

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