Obama praises Central PA health system

    Geisinger Health System improves care with personal health navigators

    The Geisinger Health System in Central Pennsylvania is getting national attention for innovation. During his health reform speech Wednesday, President Obama said the hospital system has reined in costs while improving patient health.
    (Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    In 2006, the health system chose seven common medical conditions to begin its health care overhaul. Doctors identified a long checklist of services proven to improve health for each condition. Officials say, now, every patient gets that care.

    Seth Frazier is vice president of transformation at the Danville headquarters.

    Frazier: We can reliably deliver care and what that does in turn is reduces complications, and those good outcomes for the patients translate to fewer re-admissions, fewer expensive hospital visits and you thereby both reduce cost and improve quality at the same time.

    According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, Geisinger lowered its in-hospital death rate for heart bypass surgery to zero percent in 2007, down from 1.3 percent in 2000. The average for Pennsylvania hospitals is close to two percent.

    The Cost Containment Council tracks health outcomes for hospitals around the state. Joe Martin is the council spokesman.

    Martin: They guarantee you upfront that you will have the operation and this is what it will cost, sort of a set price and then that’s it. If you are readmitted if you have an infection, if something goes wrong during the procedure, they don’t charge you anything.

    Geisginer launched a program to make sure patients get good care after leaving the hospital. Nurses call recently discharged patients to answer any lingering questions and review prescription-drug instructions. Dr. John Bulger leads in-hospital care.

    Bulger: The other thing they do is make sure they get in to see their primary care physician within four to seven days after the hospitalization. So that nurse makes sure that the patient knows when the appointment time is, that that’s at a convenient appointment time, and harps on them to a certain extent to make sure they get to the appointment.

    Officials at the systems’ headquarters in Danville say the program has reduced costs by lowering patient re-admissions. Across the US, one in five Medicare patients ends up back in the hospital within a month after discharge. That costs the federal government billions of dollars each year.

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