Group Health Cooperative through a study has demonstrated that a new care model coupled with the use of health information technology could serve as a solution to the nation’s primary care physician shortage. It was reported through the study results that a ‘patient-centered medical home’ model has many benefits to both patients and medical staff. This model gives patients more one-on-one time with the physician, improves caregiver cooperation, and provides more preventative care. The study suggests that this particular model empowers the patient and actively engages the patient in their health. A ‘medical home’ approach is a way that is expected to improve health outcomes, control costs, and help deal with the growing shortage of primary care physicians. In comparing a sample of 9,200 patients from Group Health’s medical home to a control group, after one year patient visits to emergency room decrease by 29 %. The rate of hospitalizations dropped by 11 % and the medical home had 6 % fewer in-person visits. By employing the use of technology such as email and mobile phones, physicians in the medical home were able to provide better care that included screening tests, management of chronic illnesses, and monitoring of their medications.
Using these methods also helped physicians ease the workload and reported that only 10 % of medical home doctors and staff felt ‘burnt out’ or emotionally exhausted, a large contrast to the 30 % reported from the control group. Usually, it is seen that primary care physicians also earn less than specialists do. Additionally, medical students are leaving school with heavy debts, which may influence their focuses away from small primary care practices to larger health systems. During the medical home pilot, each primary care doctor was responsible for fewer patients. Each doctor claimed responsibility for a total of 1,800 patients as opposed to 2,300. The reduction in the number of patients allowed physicians time to coordinate care, have daily ‘team huddles’ and allow for extended 30-minute office visits per patient. The reduction in patient-to-physician ratio also created a need to invest in extra staffing. As a result the study found that the medical home was investing $16 more per patient over the following year. As of now approximately 25 medical home projects are active across the nation in 17 states.