State cited for health care innovation

    Pennsylvania is one of six states leading the country in primary care innovation, according to a study from the National Academy for State Health Policy

    The report finds the state’s pilot programs have saved money, and improved health outcomes.In 2007, 25 percent of patients accounted for 80 percent of health care costs in Pennsylvania. These patients were often running up costs with avoidable hospitalizations. In response, Gov. Rendell created the Chronic Care Commission, which funds improved primary care.  Ann Torregrossa, who directs the state’s office on health care reform, highlights two areas of success. One is improved follow-up for patients with chronic conditions like diabetes who require reqular eye exams and blood sugar tests. “Someone taking the time to call up Mrs. Jones and say ‘We sent you reminders. You still haven’t come in. Is everything all right?’ It’s made a huge difference in health outcomes,” says Torregrossa.

    Second, there’s funding for programs that get primary care doctors to swap ideas and collaborate. Torregrossa says these doctors share stories. “They shamelessly steal from each other. If someone has really improved the blood sugar for their patients, [they’ll ask] ‘How are you doing that? The doctors feel that they’re part of something that’s bigger than just their practice, she says.”

    The program has expanded from 32 to over 900 practices across the state. Study co-author Anne Gauthier says the program includes financial incentives for better primary care. “Pennsylvania rolled out that pilot with a new funding model that is unique to anywhere in the country,” Gauthier says. “There’s an upfront investment and the providers get to share in savings if they meet the quality and savings target. If they don’t the additional funding stops.”The money saved is divided between the practice and the payer – either a private insurance company or the state. State officials say Governor-elect Corbett has expressed support for expanding the program.

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