Bringing Health Care Home

February 26, 2010

By Myke Folger


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Outstanding Health Care Professional

James Bergman has fully subscribed to the electronic age of

Bergman, a family practice physician at Group Health
Cooperative’s Factoria Medical Center, now handles the bulk of his patients’
care via e-mail and telephone. The result? More contact with more patients.
More give and take. More validation for the patients-all of which allows
patients to assume a more active role in maintaining their health.

Bergman joined Group Health in 1988 when the model of health
care still meant a patient made an appointment weeks in advance to see a doctor
for 10 minutes.

James Bergman
Group Health’s James Bergman has embraced the
information revolution to deliver better care to his patients.

“Before putting the system in place, the average patient
would have one contact with me in a year,” he says. “Now, it’s between three
and five contacts a year.”

The main idea of the Medical Home program that Bergman leads
at Group Health is that now, all sorts of questions patients may have
(complicated or otherwise) get answered almost immediately.

“Medical Home establishes bonding,” he says, a facet of the
doctor-patient relationship that has been suffering. “We’ve at least quadrupled
the contacts.”

As a result of the three-year-old program, Group Health
Factoria sees 29 percent fewer patients needing costly emergency room visits.
Bergman’s method of proactive primary care has led to 11 percent fewer
hospitalizations. In just the past year, Bergman and his fellow physicians at
Group Health made 94 percent more e-mail contacts and 12 percent more phone
calls with patients. Bergman and his colleagues also set aside time each
morning to answer patient calls.

“I’ve got the most people [patients] signed up for the
internet and I do more phone business than most,” he says. “But they’re
catching up to me now.”

One time-saving and cost-saving aspect of Medical Home is
the group visits. Physicians at Group Health host these town-hall meetings with
about 30 patients and talk about common concerns: diabetes, high blood
pressure, arthritis or cholesterol, for example. Each monthly session has a focus,
and patients who share particular concerns are invited.

Bergman says patients who might not mention the real reason
for coming in can open up more in a group setting, which can result in fewer
unnecessary one-on-one appointments. Bergman hopes that what Group Health is
doing catches on at health care facilities across the nation.


Bobbie Berkowitz, professor, UW School of Nursing

A leader with the King County Health Department and now a
professor at the University of Washington’s nursing school, Berkowitz has
worked for years to correct and shape health care issues in the state. She has
served on boards and committees that support improved health care, including
the Washington State Department of Health Public Health Assessment Technology program
and the Puget Sound Health Care Alliance Quality Improvement Committee.

J. Carey Jackson, director, International Medicine Clinic,
Harborview Medical Center

Jackson has always had his eye out for the underserved,
particularly immigrant communities. At the International Medicine Clinic,
patients from 70 language groups receive quality care thanks to the Interpreter
Services program. Jackson is also the co-founder of the Community House Calls
program, which helps the hospital reach out to ethnic communities.

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