The wave of the future?

Did this pass your radar? On Sept. 8, Johns Hopkins University announced it had received a $1.7 million grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation to help primary care practices in eight states improve the quality and outcomes of health care for older adults with chronic illnesses. Twilight trailer

So what, you're asking? Well, the university's Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care, part of its Bloomberg School of Public Health, plans to use the money to help primary care practices to qualify and participate in CMS's three-year Medicare Medical Home Demonstration.

Medicare Medical Home Demonstration? The demo, required by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, seeks to "redesign the health care delivery system to provide targeted, accessible, continuous and coordinated care to high-need populations and under which...incentive payments are paid to physicians participating in practices that provide as a medical home."

Elegy rip Stay with me here. Take Johns Hopkins' Guided Care model, for example. Per the model, "Specially trained nurses work closely with physicians and chronically ill patients to improve quality of life and reduce the need for expensive inpatient health services. The nurses assesses patient needs in their home, develops a care plan, monitors conditions, educate and empowers the patient, supports family caregivers, smooths transition between sites of care and works with community agencies to ensure that the patient's health care needs are met."

This is the kind of news item that crosses our desk (or really, our computer screens) and we think, "Hmmm, that's interesting," and then we continue interviewing and writing about national competitive bidding, the 36-month oxygen cap or some other more pressing, HME-related issue. We only have so big a news hole to fill, after all.

But if I were an HME provider, I'd take notice. This demo could go a long way toward educating physicians and nurses about the importance of caring for patients in their homes and the role HME providers play in helping them do that (Won't they need HME to care for many of these patients?).

I'm not telling you anything new here, but home health care is, in many cases, not only more comfortable for the patient but also more cost effective. Based on a pilot study, Johns Hopkins found that insurance costs for Guided Care patients were 23% lower over a six-month period. That's quite a savings, when you consider Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions account for 80% of Medicare spending, which totaled $425 billion in 2007.

So what's a provider to do with this kind of information? Keep it in your back pocket and the next time you're visiting with referral sources or legislators, tell them about it. If this demo becomes the wave of the future, hopefully, they'll remember that you're part of the solution.