Delivering Improved Outcomes and Reduced Healthcare Utilization

In the old days, the phone company used to call it POTS (plain old telephone service). Today, the telephone is plainly delivering improved outcomes and reduced healthcare utilization.

President Obama acknowledged the "high-quality care at costs below average" offered by Intermountain Healthcare and the Geisinger Health System, and encouraged "the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system" during his Congressional address on health reform this month.

This summer, Geisinger shared with the Healthcare Intelligence Network how attention to care transitions is paying off in reduced readmissions among its Medicare population.

Last week, Group Health Cooperative, which has been called a model for healthcare reform, described the medical home staffing models that have reduced ER visits by 29 percent, preventable hospitalizations by 11 percent and in-person visits by 6 percent -- results published this month in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Both organizations employ a low-cost, low-tech tool to drive outcomes -- what Group Health VP of Primary Care Services Michael Erikson describes as "the most underutilized technology in modern medicine, the telephone." Geisinger calls Medicare patients within 24 hours of discharge -- even on weekends -- to make sure they understand medication instructions, are safe in their homes and have a doctor's appointment within five to seven days.

Group Health patients can book one of two daily phone appointments, and all 26 Group Health medical centers can answer a patient's call 80 percent of the time the first time they call, and no patient waits longer than 45 minutes for an answer to their clinical question. Group Health also calls patients within 24 hours of an ED visit to invite them back to primary care and follow up on any care needs resulting from that ED visit. You can learn more about Group Health Cooperative's medical home staffing model, by visiting:

Geisinger's care transitions program is profiled in the new special report, Retooling Care Transitions to Reduce Hospitalizations in Medicare Patients. This essential resource delivers current trends in care transition programs as well as advice and guidance from industry thought leaders on key elements of care transition programs from enhancements to the hospital discharge process to medication reconciliation ideas and better utilization of home visits during care transitions. For information on this resource, please visit:

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