Congress can spur team-based approach to health care
As the health-care environment undergoes rapid changes, new research shows that patients prefer physician-led, team-based care - the type of care provided by two innovative health systems in Pennsylvania: Geisinger and Renaissance Health Network.
For these types of innovations to occur on a more widespread scale, Congress must act to address the broken Medicare formula that regularly schedules massive, unsustainable cuts to physicians who treat Medicare patients. This unworkable formula threatens patient access to care.
According to a new survey by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, almost half of the respondents said they think about doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health-care professionals who provide their care as being their "team," with each person playing an important role. And an American Medical Association survey reports that nearly all respondents agreed that physicians and nurses need to work together in a coordinated manner to ensure that patients get the care they need.
By improving care coordination, by collaborating across specialties to share information, and by providing continuity of care in managing and preventing chronic diseases, we can both improve the health of our patients and reduce health-care costs. Because new health-care delivery systems hinge on a team-based approach to care, we are delighted that the public recognizes the importance and value of patient-centered care.
Some Pennsylvanians have already experienced these new health-care delivery systems.
Geisinger Health System, in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, is one leading example of how physician-led, team-based models of care can work, and what the future of American health-care delivery and financing can look like. Geisinger is successfully using integrated teams to achieve better care, improving their patients' health and reducing costs.
Another example is Renaissance Health Network, in Southeast Pennsylvania. This clinically integrated, physician-owned company has been selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to be a pioneer accountable care organization (ACO), a national program that tests the impact of different payment arrangements to coordinate care, improve quality, and reduce costs. Renaissance was chosen for this pilot program because of its decade of success in offering coordinated care for some patients with private insurance.
The Renaissance model has had tremendous success, ranking in the top 10 percent for its results. Renaissance hopes to translate these successes in the private market to the traditional Medicare fee-for-service model. Although it is too early to quantify the quality improvements and cost savings from this new ACO at Renaissance, the program is showing great promise.
To enable both private physician practices and other health systems to successfully implement these new innovative health-delivery models, Congress must act to provide physicians with a period of stable Medicare payments so they can make the investments necessary to transition to these new models of care. The current system regularly schedules massive, unsustainable cuts to physicians and compromises access to care for patients.
There is bipartisan agreement in Congress to end the current way of doing business, and acting now would be a fiscally responsible course. Doing so would not only stabilize Medicare, but it would also give physicians in Pennsylvania - and across the nation - the stability needed to pursue delivery innovations that would improve care and reduce costs.
Renaissance and Geisinger patients have seen firsthand how these new ways of delivering care can increase coordination and allow physicians to focus on managing the overall health of their patients, instead of simply focusing on specific episodes of illness. By giving physicians the ability to make these important changes, lawmakers can help ensure that Medicare can effectively meet the needs of patients now and in the future.
Encourage your members of Congress to act this year to protect and improve Medicare. To find out how to help, contact the Patients' Action Network at 888-434-6200 or www.patientsactionnetwork.com.