Medical Network One
WHY SHE’S A CHAMPION OF THE NEW ECONOMY
Over the last decade, Ewa Matuszewski and her team at Medical Network One, a physician’s organization, began offering a new range of services that promote healthy lifestyles. The company works closely with private practice physician members and other health care organizations to develop a team approach to improve patient outcomes, called patient-centered medical homes. That’s “miles apart” from the company’s founding in 1981, when it mainly served as a third-party administrator providing managed care contracting, physician recruitment, claims processing, and other management services.
What’s driving the changes to Medical Network One’s operations?
In 2000, the health care community began to see costs increase dramatically. We started looking at changes we could make in the community at large. If we could retool our operations to boost value and quality of care, we felt it was a goal worth pursuing. As we began to examine the outcomes at that time, we discovered there was a dramatic increase in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and obesity, and it wasn’t just adults; it was adolescents, as well. In response, Medical Network One created the Michigan Institute for Health Enhancement. The first project was an adult weight management program that proved to be very successful. We also started to form educational programs that delivered best practices for individual health care to physician practice teams, community organizations and, ultimately, the workplace.
What changes are under way within hospitals and medical centers to boost patient care?
Over the last few years, the foundation was laid at the national level for the resurgence of patient-centered medical homes, where a team of allied health specialists, working with the primary care physician, assess, monitor, and provide care and self-management education for a patient. We also advocated for our physician members to implement e-prescribing patient registries and electronic medical records, which offer the opportunity for e-consultations and e-visits. We began to educate physicians and their practice teams on the benefits of moving from a hierarchical operation to a team approach. There was more investment dedicated to R&D on how a practice team works. In 2006, we launched the community care travel team, where a health care team (registered nurse, certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, lifestyle coach, behavioral health specialist, health educator, and exercise specialist) works with patients to evaluate, counsel, and help avoid or reduce the risk of complications from chronic conditions such as diabetes. The community care travel team provides services in primary care practices, worksites, and community and educational centers.
How do you mange the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) when it’s being challenged in two different federal courts, and may get a review by the U.S. Supreme Court?
It’s not going to go away. There are some really good components of the legislation. One is the patient-centered medical home, which boosts healthy outcomes, improves interventions, and provides patients with the highest quality medical care possible. The other component is the meaningful use of electronic medical records. There are facets of the act that are very important, but there are some sections that should be rescinded. Overall, [the act] is good for the patient, and there are pieces that are very timely and needed.
As large hospital groups transform into wellness centers, how will that impact your company’s operations?
We will remain focused on primary care. The health care community as a whole will succeed in providing high-quality health care when, for starters, more people know who their primary care physician is, and when patients regularly consult with their physician and their medical team. Right now, if we ask 100 people in a room to stand up, and then to remain standing if they can name their primary care physician, 60 people will sit down. The entire health care community has a lot of work to do to reverse that trend. It will benefit everyone.
How do you best tap technological advances that boost patient care and improve efficiency?
In many ways, the introduction of technology leads to cultural changes. Things can’t be done the way they were done before if we are going to improve care. Our job is to effectively train and educate staff members so that primary practice teams truly understand what they were doing in the past, and what results would emerge if they changed their practice. But it’s not across-the-board changes all at once. For example, we’ve implemented a modular approach to electronic medical records. We focus on improving one aspect of the technology, mastering that, and then moving on to the next one.
What were the results from a recent “speed-dating” event?
We invited physicians and their practice teams to come together to learn more about community-focused organizations that offer such services as family counseling, suicide prevention, youth assistance, and elder care. It’s part of the community engagement required for physicians to establish their practices as patient-centered medical homes. Our overall goal is to have physicians and their teams understand the scope of community services available for their patients for needs that go outside the realm of a practice area of expertise. It’s like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical hit, “Getting To Know You.” Physician teams get to know the scope of services in a given area, hours of operations, and the best contact person. That will help everyone avoid or quickly facilitate crisis situations.