Lawrence’s Internal Medicine Group is one of only eight practices selected for a state pilot project that aims to put the focus back on patients.
That means providing more preventive care, education and referrals on where to get help for things like smoking cessation.
That means having email and weekend hours that make them more accessible.
That means following up with patients to see if they received the recommended treatments, like a mammogram or seeing a specialist.
“The basic model of care had been acute illness care and reacting to acute problems when people get sick with colds and pneumonias and major illnesses,” said Dr. Greg Schnose, co-founder of Internal Medicine Group, 4525 W. Sixth St.. “Now, we are building time to do maintenance and chronic disease management.”
For the project, the practice is focusing on three chronic conditions: high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. For example, Schnose said the practice is scheduling regular diabetes visits instead of trying to manage a patient’s diabetes when he or she seeks treatment for an acute illness.
Other practices involved in the Kansas Patient Centered Medical Home Initiative are located in Winfield, St. Francis, Ellsworth, Pittsburg, Sabetha, Wichita and Plainville. The project is being led by Kansas Academy of Family Physicians which received a $500,000 grant that enabled it to hire Leawood-based TransforMED to provide training and resources.
Through webinars and conference calls, the practices continue to be educated, and they are learning from each other.
At Internal Medicine Group, Susan Andersen, advanced practice registered nurse, is project coordinator for the Patient-Centered Medical Home. She said the biggest challenge has been getting all 50 staff members on board with the changes.
“The No. 1 issue is the buy-in because it’s a huge culture change,” she said. “I think the biggest threat to people in addition to the change is, ‘Is this going to mean more work for me?’”
Initially, it does require learning new systems of care and documenting that care electronically, but over time, they expect it will result in less paperwork and more efficiency that will enable staff to spend more time with patients.
One month ago, the practice began offering a free online service to its approximately 10,000 patients so they can ask questions, send information or get test results by email. So far, about 35 percent have signed up.
“The hope is that it saves time and is more efficient for both sides, so patients don’t have to be waiting by the phone,” Schnose said.
Another big change is tracking preventive care like flu shots. When the doctors first started tracking, their records indicated only 30 percent of their patients had received shots. The next flu season, they did a better job of documenting and found the rate was 75 percent which is better than the national average of 60 percent. But, Schnose thinks they can do even better by providing one-one-one education through the new online system.
Internal Medicine Group’s goal is to earn the Patient-Centered Medical Home designation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, or NCQA. So far, 17 practices in Kansas have received the designation; none are in Lawrence.
Andy Reynolds, NCQA spokesman, said the designation benefits both patients and health care providers. For patients, it means better care. For providers, it means higher reimbursements from insurance companies and getting back to old-school medicine where they develop relationships with patients.
“This way of working saves money because the patients stay healthier and so Medicare and Medicaid and all of the ways we pay for health care in America — the total tab over time — becomes a little lower as people are kept healthier on the front end,” Reynolds said.
SUMMIT TO FOCUS ON PATIENT-CENTERED CARE
The Kansas Academy of Family Physicians is organizing a state summit about the national initiative to move to a Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care. The summit will be Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 on Kansas University’s Edwards campus in Overland Park. It is for anyone who is interested in this initiative or wants to learn more about it.
It will include exhibits and presentations on topics ranging from “Effective Communication in Medicine” to “What Have Our Bosses Gotten Us Into Now?”
The cost varies depending on whether you are a member of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, a medical student or part of a statewide pilot project.
For more information or to register for the conference, visit kafponline.org/KansasPCMH or call 316-721-9005.