Healthy Conversations

Healthy Conversations with Saint Alphonsus

The Health Care Choice

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The recent changes in health care have resulted in some employers changing the way they offer health care to their employees.  In some instances, it’s become harder to find the perfect plan, and things like “health risk assessments” and “premium increases” have become very familiar terms.

Fortunately, one of the choices that’s being offered by some employers is something called the Patient Centered Medical Home – or PCMH for short.  I have invited Dr. Steven D. Brown, our Chief Medical Officer, to talk a little more about this new approach to healthcare, and how it can benefit you.  Here’s what he had to say.

“Imagine that your employeBrown Steven- CMO_croppedr has given you a choice:  either get a primary care doctor and complete a health risk assessment, or face a 30% increase in your insurance premiums.    A 30% increase on premiums could, for many, be a significant chunk of change.  On the other hand, you’d like to be able to go to the doctor when you want, and where you want.  So which choice do you make?  What’s best for you and your family?

These choices are increasingly common with employers as they change the health insurance plans they offer to employees to reduce cost while improving the health of their staff.  Studies have shown that those who have a regular primary care doctor and participate in wellness activities have lower health care costs.  With many employers facing the harsh reality of cost cutting, they are being forced to control healthcare costs, or start cutting elsewhere – with employees, raises, or other benefits.

Some of the new plans offered by employers include Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH).  For some, hearing “Medical Home” conjures an unappealing nursing home vision.  On the contrary – these PCMHs are simply a different approach to health care, rather than a physical “home.”  So what’s the difference between the insurance plan you may have now and on that includes a PCMH?  With the PCMH plans, patients are offered the benefits of a patient centered, team based approach.  But what exactly does that mean?

Patient centered health care is more proactive, rather than reactive.  In more traditional models of health care, patients sought care only when they were sick.  In the PCMH, health plans work with patients to maintain wellness activities such as immunizations, mammography, Pap smears, blood pressure checks and other preventative exams.  Think of it as a pre-emptive strike against health problems down the road. 

The PCMH allows patients to access more care in different ways, as well.  In addition to clinics extending their open hours, patients can also communicate with their clinic electronically and see their records online, all securely through the Internet.  Plus, the team-based approach means patients have a whole team – not just one doctor – looking after them.

Liken the PCMH plan to a sports team – running practiced plays, coordinating positions, maximizing efficiency, and working as a team to win the game.  The patient is a part of the “health care team” in a PCMH; understanding their options, having medical information available, and being expected to do their part in maintaining wellness. 

As health care change accelerates, so does the difficulty in navigating some of the choices offered and the benefits you can receive.  The PCMH will offer an alternative to the traditional role of fragmented medical records, doctors, specialists, and appointments.  Instead, your experience will become more seamless than ever, and give you the resources to reach your best health.

At Saint Alphonsus, we have three PCMH clinics within our Medical Group:  Eagle Health Plaza, McMillan Clinic, and the Overland Clinic.  With their experienced staff of doctors, they carefully monitor wellness and chronic disease programs for about 27,000 patients.  Additionally, Saint Alphonsus is planning to convert all its primary care clinics to PCMHs in the next two years as it works with employers and insurers.  We’ve made the investment in training, electronic systems and staffing to make your care as efficient and effective as possible.  We’re dedicated to improving the value of your care, meaning better quality at a lower cost.”


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