With the US population aging rapidly, payers, providers, and public policy makers are seeking ways to both improve quality of care and reduce rising costs. A new study in The American Journal of Managed Care® found that giving Medicare Advantage patients more frequent contact with their primary care doctors kept them healthier and cost 28 percent less than usual care.
Giving Medicare Advantage (MA) patients more frequent contact with their primary care doctors kept them healthier and cost 28 percent less than usual care, according to a new study of patients enrolled in MA published in the September issue of The American Journal of Managed Care®.
The study’s authors, led by Reyan Ghany, MD, National Director of Cardiovascular Diseases at ChenMed, evaluated the impact of a new type of primary care model called “high-touch” preventive care.
With the US population aging rapidly, payers, providers, and public policy makers are seeking ways to both improve quality of care and reduce rising costs. In the United States, 46 million people are 65 years or older, and that number is expected to double over the next dozen years. Healthcare for chronic conditions in that age group currently costs the country more than $617 billion per year.
High-touch primary care allows this population to have frequent contact with primary care doctors, with the goal of preventing or delaying complications of chronic conditions. By enabling primary care physicians to invest an average of 189 minutes of face-to-face time per patient yearly, Ghany and his co-authors found substantive improvements in both healthcare costs and utilization among patients who received high-touch primary care, compared with those receiving standard care, in this retrospective cohort study of MA patients.
The ChenMed and University of Miami investigators included 17,711 unmatched MA primary care patients and matched 5,695 patients from both models of care. The median total per member per month healthcare costs in the group receiving the high-touch model were $87, compared with $121 for the standard care group. Patients receiving high-touch care saw their primary care doctors more often (8.7 vs 3.8 visits), and the mean number of hospital admissions was 50 percent lower for the high-touch model group.
In addition, patients receiving high-touch care were up to 41 percent more likely to use preventive medications such as aspirin, statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, β-blockers, and diuretics.
The study gave three possible reasons for the results. More frequent communication between patients and their providers may help promote improved adherence to medication and can also allow physicians to optimize medications as needed. Another possibility is that the frequency of visits may allow for more timely diagnosis of ambulatory care—sensitive conditions, thus allowing patients to avoid the hospital. A third reason is that patients in the high-touch care model may be more likely to receive other preventive care, such as vaccination or cancer screening.
About  The American Journal of Managed Care®:
The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®) is a peer-reviewed, MEDLINE-indexed journal that keeps readers on the forefront of health policy by publishing research relevant to industry decision makers as they work to promote the efficient delivery of high-quality care. AJMC.com is the essential website for managed care professionals, distributing industry updates daily to leading stakeholders. Other titles in the AJMC® family include The American Journal of Accountable Care®, and two evidence-based series, Evidence-Based Oncology and Evidence-Based Diabetes Management™. These comprehensive offerings bring together stakeholder views from payers, providers, policymakers and other industry leaders in managed care. To order reprints of articles appearing in AJMC® publications, please contact Jeff Prescott at 609-716-7777, ext. 331.
ChenMed operates about 50 Chen, Dedicated and JenCare Senior Medical Centers serving diverse elderly populations in seven states. To help seniors enjoy more healthy days, while significantly reducing both emergency room visits and in-patient hospital admissions, ChenMed emphasizes prevention and high-touch services, including on-site specialists and medication dispensing, door-to-doctor transportation, and substantively more face-to-face time with primary care physicians. The AJMC® study included thousands of patients seen in any of the ChenMed practices between January 2, 2014, and March 27, 2015.
Alexandra Ventura, 609-716-7777, ext. 121
James Brown, 305-310-7214