Campus News

October 3, 2011

Pilot program seeks to enrich patient care

"Patient-Centered Primary Care" (PCPC) is a new clinical care option at the Emory Clinic.

Emory Healthcare and the division of general medicine have partnered with Aetna to pilot a program in conjunction with national efforts focused on the "Patient-Centered Medical Home."

"Research shows that the traditional methods of episodic care do not produce the best outcomes for patients, especially those patients with chronic disease conditions," says Penny Castellano, chief medical officer and chief quality officer for the Emory Clinic.

Patients participating in Emory’s medical home program enter into partnerships with intentionally designed care teams that include nurses, medical assistants and behavioral health specialists, led by their physicians.

The health care team acts as an extension of the physician before and after the office visit. The team monitors patient progress, identifies educational materials and opportunities, helps coordinate care with specialists and assists with transitions to and from other settings including the hospital or emergency room.

Physicians and the care team can correspond with patients by email through a secure online system called the Emory Healthcare Patient Portal.

Patients can access the patient portal to receive test results, ask questions and receive answers in a timely fashion as well as view data from their medical records. Patients also can have clinical questions answered by booking a telephone appointment for a virtual visit. Additionally, same-day or next-day appointments for a clinic visit are available if needed.

"The staff work as a team, and the patient is able to engage with all team members," explains Castellano.  "Everyone becomes more efficient because the communication is better and the patient is engaged in the process.  Care is done with the patient, not to the patient.

"We are already seeing a lot of enthusiasm from both our patients and our providers. As the program continues, we expect to see better overall health outcomes in chronic disease conditions, less progression to severe disease states, less disability and less unnecessary costs to our patients," she says.

The new practice is currently open only to Emory employees and their adult family members who are covered under Emory's insurance program administered by Aetna. Certain patients with Medicare Advantage HMO/PPO membership, whose plan has agreed to participate in the pilot program, also can participate.

Other insurance plans are expected to join the pilot program in the future. The pilot is expected to last 12-18 months, with the possibility to expand faster if there is demand and demonstrated results.

Emory Clinic primary care physicans Jennifer Zreloff and Jason Higdon are the practitioners dedicated to the pilot program. Mental health providers are available.

"If the pilot practice succeeds we – and Aetna – have healthier patients while being responsible stewards of the cost portion of the equation by improving the outcomes without increasing the cost."

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