Buffalo, N.Y., (September 6, 2012) - Using patient-centered medical home principles as its foundation, a pioneering group of community physicians and Independent Health have launched a new approach to transform the delivery of health care.
This alliance of primary care physicians, called The Primary Connection, officially began on July 1, 2012 and initially includes 21 primary physician practices, including 140 internal medicine, family practice and pediatric physicians.
“The Primary Connection is designed to focus on the patient to improve their experience of care, achieve seamless coordination of care with specialists and other providers, and improve health outcomes, which will lead to lower costs in the long term,” said Donald Robinson, M.D., a family practice physician involved in the alliance and chairman of The Primary Connection’s Leadership Council.
“The Primary Connection is the most exciting initiative to come along in health care in quite some time,” said Michael W. Cropp, M.D., Independent Health’s president and chief executive officer. “The Primary Connection allows the primary care physician to be a vital part of improving our health care system. We are empowering primary care physicians to expand their influence and provide more patient-centered care.”
The Primary Connection was developed by a group of physicians and Independent Health, which had helped the physicians re-engineer their own office practices and patient care through its Patient-Centered Medical Home initiative that began in 2009. “Independent Health brought the primary care physicians together to design what we thought would be the ideal health care system. We are now implementing those plans,” said Dr. Robinson.
“Independent Health has a long history of collaborating with physicians, and The Primary Connection is an innovative, physician-led initiative that takes a more holistic approach to achieve better quality, better access to care and more affordability,” said Dr. Cropp.
Benefits of The Primary Connection include:
• The use of Practice Care Coordinators (PCCs) - registered nurses employed by Independent Health who work right within each primary care practice as an extended case manager to help ensure the delivery of quality, efficient and coordinated health care services. Using a team approach with the office practices to optimize a member's care, the PCC plans, coordinates and evaluates all options and services available to develop an individualized care plan for each patient.
• Improved communication with specialists to coordinate care, which eliminates unnecessary and duplicate visits and tests.
• Data and analytics which include quality and best practice opportunities for each physician to enable them to find gaps in care and work toward evidence-based best practices to achieve better outcomes.
• A resource bank of nutritionists, dietitians, social services, and other shared services for each physician practice to use, which will expand physicians’ capacity to serve the diverse needs of their patient populations by encouraging the use of medical care teams.
• A reimbursement model that is based on pay-for-value and quality care rather than full reliance on fee-for-service.
“I am excited about the potential for the Primary Connection to improve the quality of the health care experience for both the patient and the physician,” said Andre Lopez, M.D., one of the 30 primary care physicians from the Buffalo Medical Group, which is part of the alliance. “Patients will benefit from added services, better access to their doctor and lower costs. Primary care physicians will have access to greater resources to help manage complex medical issues and will benefit from enhanced reimbursement. Our goal is to improve the quality of care for our patients, reduce costs and strengthen the role of primary care for the future.”
The Primary Connection and Independent Health will track and measure success through four dimensions: the quality of care; patients’ satisfaction with their experience of care; improvement of professional fulfillment by physicians and providers; and a total lower cost of care for the health care system.
David Pawlowski, M.D., with Highgate Medical Group and a member of The Primary Connection’s Leadership Council, said, “The Primary Connection enables us to be the quarterback in our patients’ care, allowing us to guide them to the most effective and efficient type of care they need.”
Independent Health has long believed that better care costs less, and improving care coordination and quality will lead to lower costs in the future. Dr. Pawlowski cited the case of a patient with a serious skin infection. Rather than admit the patient to an acute care hospital, Dr. Pawlowski’s care team at Highgate Medical worked with the Practice Care Coordinator to arrange the patient’s treatment at a rehabilitation facility, which was a more appropriate setting, preferred by the patient, and more efficient than a traditional hospital stay.
Another component of The Primary Connection will address the shortage of primary care physicians. A 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges study estimated a nationwide shortage of 29,800 primary care physicians by 2015. The Primary Connection will also collaborate with area colleges and universities in training and mentoring opportunities that will encourage medical and nursing students to choose primary care as their specialty.
For example, four medical residents from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine are about to begin their three-year primary care clinical training experience at physician practices that are part of The Primary Connection.
“This country and region face a shortage of primary care physicians, which will impact the quality and cost of care if not addressed,” said Dr. Pawlowski. “That is why a major component of The Primary Connection is to revitalize and grow primary care.”
As a primary care physician himself, Dr. Cropp believes that reforming primary care is one of the most essential actions we can take to improve the health system. “Primary care physicians and other providers are the first point for patients to access the health care system. Our investment is bringing primary care physicians back to the forefront in helping patients get exactly what they need from health care.”
The Primary Connection and Independent Health are working with additional primary physician practices to join the initiative in January. Independent Health has established certain requirements to ensure full engagement and participation. For example, practices have had to achieve or work toward achieving Level 3 NCQA PCMH Recognition, meet stringent quality/efficiency performance levels, and be open to making organizational improvements.
Click here for a list of Primary Connection practices