Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

The “Medical Home” In Ontario: The Poor Left Behind Again

In a recent blog posting, I described Group Health’s medical home for 8,000 patients. It proved to be a boon for primary care physicians, who were able to reduce the size of their patient panels, see fewer patients per day, refer more patients to specialists, and maintain or increase their incomes.

Patients liked it, too. And Group Health was happy because expenditures per patient were 2 percent lower. But poor patients had trouble getting through the front door of the medical home, so based on demographic differences alone, expenditures should have been lower by 10 percent or more. Nonetheless, they declared victory.

Now news filters south from Ontario’s eight-year experiment with medical homes for 8,000,000 patients, and the news is similar. Participation is skewed to healthier and wealthier patients who, in the absence of risk adjustment, yield profitable capitation for primary care physicians. Incomes have soared an average of 25 percent.

But while better service was promised, it hasn’t been delivered — at least not for the medical needy and not after hours. Indeed, patients who have sought such extra care (which is charged to the medical home) have been removed from the roster, further improving the risk profile of those who remained.

The conclusion reached by Glazier and Redelmeier, whose JAMA commentary I have drawn upon, is that Ontario’s medical homes were laudable in their innovation and scope and successful in increasing primary care physicians’ incomes. However, the result has been gaps for vulnerable groups and suboptimal access for those most in need. And once again, the urban poor have been left out in the cold.

Healthcare reform is in love with medical homes, and in theory, there’s a lot to love. But before we rush head-long into a new care model, with too few physicians to do it, we’d better look carefully at what has occurred elsewhere and think about how we might build homes for all of our citizens, not just the healthiest and wealthiest ones.

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »