Philadelphia leads in health care once again as medical homes transform primary care

Years ago, when Dr. Allan Crimm saw a patient, the Philadelphia primary care physician often had to focus on the patient's immediate needs during a 15 or 20-minute appointment. After that, it was up to the patient to follow through on Dr. Crimm’s advice – to take the medicine he prescribed, get the routine cancer screening he recommended, or make an appointment with a specialist.

That was six years ago, before Dr. Crimm’s large primary care practice in Center City became one of the first patient-centered medical homes in the nation. Today, with nine doctors and two nurse practitioners, his practice, Ninth Street Internal Medicine, is transforming health care in our region using this nationally respected and highly effective model of care.

Today, Dr. Crimm and his colleagues have the resources to make sure their patients get all the care they need. They do this in many ways, including the help of care managers -- staff members who communicate with patients between appointments, explaining their medications, reminding them about important screenings and immunizations, and following up to make sure they schedule appointments with other physicians.

The number of medical homes in the Philadelphia area, like this one, is increasing, and that’s good news for everyone who lives here.

Patient-centered medical homes provide primary care physicians with a complete picture of each patient’s health.  With this information, doctors and their teams can better coordinate care, which is especially critical for those with potentially debilitating chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart problems who need extra help staying well and avoiding hospitalizations.

For example, one of Dr. Crimm’s care managers is making sure that a heart failure patient regularly checks for increases in her weight, an early indicator that the heart may not be working as it should. If this patient’s weight changes, she calls the doctor for guidance and may be asked to adjust her medication to keep the condition from becoming a more serious problem.  This is helping the patient stay healthier at home and out of the hospital.

Philadelphia is leading the nation in the use of patient-centered medical homes. Our region has one of the highest concentrations of them anywhere in the country.

Recent research findings confirm the value of this health care innovation. Medical homes have been shown to help improve important health markers like cholesterol levels and can even help to reduce health care costs. In a recent study sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, diabetic patients treated in a medical home had 21% lower total medical costs driven by a 44% reduction in spending on inpatient care.

Because it's been shown that medical homes improve the quality of care while controlling costs, Independence was an early supporter of the first effort six years ago in our region to promote medical homes. Today major insurers throughout the country are supporting this progressive model of care. Thanks in part to Independence’s commitment, nearly 300 medical homes in its network of primary care physician practices now serve more than 40% of its members. That’s up from just 6% in 2010. 

You can learn more about this cutting edge transformation of primary care by clicking here here.