Editorial, 9/19: Hats off to Crete health-care providers

2011-09-18T23:59:00Z Editorial, 9/19: Hats off to Crete health-care providers JournalStar.com
September 18, 2011 11:59 pm

The Crete Area Medical Center's transformation into a nationally recognized medical home is getting results that bring hope for the nation's health care system.

Physicians and other health care workers at the BryanLGH affiliate accomplished what has eluded so many for so long -- not with a mandate, but through a commitment to do what's best for patients.

We admire the accomplishment and encourage BryanLGH to expand the medical-home model in Lincoln; CEO Kim Russel said she thinks that can happen in large part.

Consider these numbers from Crete:

-- A 36 percentage-point improvement on compliance with routine visits for high blood pressure.

-- A 40 percentage-point improvement for high cholesterol visit compliance.

-- A 17 percentage-point rate over the national average for proof of diabetes control.

-- A zero readmission rate for heart failure and pneumonia hospital discharge patients, compared with about 20 percent of patients nationally.

The main advantage of the medical-home concept, which has been gaining fans in projects around the country, is that it reduces hospital costs. Every readmission avoided for heart failure or pneumonia saves $8,000-$9,000.

Seattle-based Group Health estimates that $1.50 is saved for every $1 invested in a medical home, and a Pennsylvania project estimated a 7 percent reduction in costs.

After witnessing costs spiraling upward in the health care system year after year, we'd regard keeping costs steady to be a miracle. Better outcomes as well? Wow.

The old health care model focused on acute care instead of chronic care. Chronic illness such as diabetes is much more prevalent today and requires a high degree of coordination among providers and the patient. The medical home provides that integration.

Electronic medical records are key, because it's easy to analyze data to find out, for example, who is not returning for routine visits. But it's the low-tech follow-up phone calls that help keep patients on track.

How many of us have gone home from the hospital or doctor's office having difficulty remembering all of the orders the doctor gave us or wondering if the symptoms we're having afterward mean we should return to the doctor or hospital?

Patients welcome the phone calls, said Dr. Russell Ebke, who led the Crete transformation. "People want that kind of health care."

We hope Crete's success spreads rapidly. Maybe at this rate, they'll even bring back house calls.

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