Health and Long-Term Care Program Integration
Screening And Service Coordination In Medicare Hmos
Surveys of the largest Medicare HMOs show that as early as 1990, plans had begun to establish procedures for identifying high risk patients, assessing and treating multiproblem patients, rehabilitating patients following acute events, reducing medication problems, and expanding benefits to include more home care and case management for nursing home patients (Kramer et al.). These activities incorporate many of the features of the S/HMO model, but without the advantage of a 5 percent higher capitation payment and with no obligation to provide long-term care benefits for those in the community.
Screening and assessment are generally limited to new enrollees or to those who have been hospitalized. High risk cases flagged via this process are referred to primary care (or geriatric assessment) for more in-depth assessments. Screening data are based on self-report questionnaires and telephone interviews. The emphasis in these instruments is given to health conditions and other factors that may be associated with hospitalization, preventable disability, and other avoidable expenditures. The screening of current members has been less formalized. It is generally based on a referral from the primary care physician or triggered by hospitalization (Pacala et al.). Management information systems are becoming more capable of capturing medical records, service encounters, and even prescription refills. Access to these data increases the likelihood of their use to identify and monitor those thought to be at risk for expensive care or avoidable complications, though there are no recent studies documenting the extent or means of implementing such monitoring.
Primary care for post-acute care patients is delivered by a combination of methods (Kramer et al.). For those returning home, most plans rely on the primary care physician. For persons in skilled nursing homes, some plans rely on the primary care physician, others have a medical director who handles all such cases, and still others use a nurse practitioner. Combinations of these approaches may occur, depending on whether the nursing home is a primary referral site for the health plan or a freestanding facility with only a few plan members. The management of other "high risk" but not hospitalized cases largely falls on the primary care physician, although many plans have developed programs targeted to selected diagnoses that include congestive heart failure, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Within disease management programs the patient's health care may be managed by a specialist who is supported by a team of professionals responsible for helping the patient monitor symptoms, diet, weight, medication use, and other treatments. The effectiveness of the screening, risk identification, and disease management approaches within health plans has not been formally reported, but experience from clinical trials and other small scale demonstrations leads to expectations of program success (Fama, et al.; Miller and Luft).
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