Disease Management and the Medical Home Model: Competing or Complementary?
For the past decade, US physicians have failed to embrace disease management (DM) approaches offered by private DM companies and health plans. Until recently, physicians have not offered an alternative, systematic approach to caring for patients with chronic illnesses and conditions. The medical home model has become the centerpiece of reforms proposed by associations that represent family medicine physicians (the American Academy of Family Physicians [AAFP]) and general internal medicine physicians (the American College of Physicians [ACP]). In February 2007, the AAFP and the ACP were joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Osteopathic Association in issuing joint principles for the patient-centered medical home. While the medical home model is promoted primarily as a comprehensive approach to primary care reform, there is one aspect where the medical home and DM overlap: care coordination. Medicare has been exploring alternative mechanisms to manage and reimburse chronic care and care-coordination activities. In 2003, the US Congress passed legislation to require pilot projects for chronic care improvement programs; the program implementing this legislation is Medicare Health Support (MHS). To date, very little information has been available about the progress of MHS projects. The three early announcements about MHS progress have not been encouraging: the expected financial results are not being achieved. In December 2006, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Medicare Medical Home Demonstration (MMHD) project. MHS and MMHD are directed at similar patient populations: high-cost, frail, elderly patients with multiple co-morbid conditions. The medical home concept being advanced by primary care physicians has the potential to be competitive with DM companies. Health plans that have built their own DM programs are more likely to be supportive of the medical home model. Do physicians have the ability to compete at providing care-coordination services? There are strong arguments suggesting `no' and strong arguments suggesting `yes'. While the medical home model is focused on primary care reform, its effect could be competitive to DM companies and others. The medical home model could affect the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars - money that over time might flow either to physicians or to private companies.
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