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VOL. 126 | NO. 224 | Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Project Better Care Aims to Improve Primary Care

By Aisling Maki

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Healthy Memphis Common Table has launched a program to help support primary care practices in delivering the best patient care possible.

Project Better Care is an initiative engaging primary care practices, health plans, physician-hospital organizations and their patients in improving the care they provide in ambulatory settings.

“What we’re trying to do is make efforts toward quality improvements in primary care settings, which we don’t have at this time in our community,” said Patti Tosti of Healthy Memphis Common Table, a regional health care improvement collaborative comprised of community partners. “This really is trying to strengthen primary care.”

Project Better Care’s goals are to improve patient outcomes, develop better tools and resources for primary care practices, and improve payment systems to help reduce primary care-related ER visits.

The project targets three key chronic disease areas: diabetes, cardiac disease and pediatric asthma. New tools and existing resources are harnessed to improve care management for chronic care patients and reduce unnecessary emergency room visits that could result in preventable hospitalizations.

The project will also design shared-savings models, which provide incentives to patients and providers who participate in various activities.

In addition, a learning summit will be offered quarterly to keep doctors, nurses and administrators up to date on health-related topics affecting the Memphis area.

Memphis and Shelby County primary care practices interested in improving patient care and outcomes are eligible to participate in Project Better Care. Six practices so far have signed up to participate, and Tosti said she hopes that number will reach 10 by the end of the year.

“We’re working with smaller practices, the one- and two-physician office practices to begin with,” Tosti said. “We’ll be able to offer a quality-improvement coordinator we have as an employee here at Healthy Memphis Common Table who will work directly with the actual practices and help their flow. We’ll also be able to offer a care coordinator who works directly with the patients within the practices who have diabetes and are at risk.”

Project Better Care, whose seed funding has been provided by a local health plan, is a partnership between Healthy Memphis Common Table, Memphis Medical Society and Bluff City Medical Society.

The project was initiated as part of Healthy Memphis Common Table’s Aligning Forces for Quality project, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and supports ambulatory quality improvement efforts.

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