Maine Patient Centered Medical Home Pilot project moves forward with Dirigo Health Agency

By Ramona du Houx- July 9th, 2009 · 

The Dirigo Health Agency’s Maine Quality Forum, Quality Counts, and the Maine Health Management Coalition have announced the 26 primary care practices selected to participate in the Maine Patient Centered Medical Home Pilot project.

The Patient Centered Medical Home aims to achieve better patient outcomes at a lower cost by coordinating care, integrating behavioral and public health services with medical practice, emphasizing prevention, and compensating primary care practices for providing these services.

The project funds will help these 26 participating practices pay for additional services patients might need to manage chronic conditions. Most insurance companies don’t cover these practices, at present.

Lisa Letourneau, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of Quality Counts, provides staff support to the Pilot.

“While our work will be primarily with the Pilot practices, we also plan to share the learnings and communicate with the rest of the primary care community in Maine, in hopes that we can spread these concepts throughout the state,” said Dr. Letourneau.

The pilot project will last three years. Findings from the pilot project might be used to inform legislation that expands the cost-saving model to more Maine practices.

The Maine Health Management Coalition is an employer-based coalition that purchases health care benefits for nearly 250,000 Maine workers and their families.

“Our employers are looking for ways to improve the value of the healthcare they and their employees are purchasing, and believe that the medical home model is one part of the solution,” noted Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Coalition. “The Coalition is at the table to make sure that we keep this moving ahead. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

An important next step in the pilot is to work with insurance carriers and MaineCare, all of whom have expressed support for the pilot. By re-directing payment to support improved primary care, the pilot will examine whether and how additional costs can be avoided over time.

“We have a motivated, enthusiastic group of physicians,” said Joshua Cutler, M.D., Director of the Maine Quality Forum. “The program is designed to encourage what primary care practices want to be doing and should be doing. The problem is that primary care is so busy and so under-resourced that they really can’t do what they want and need to be doing.”

Pilot practices, demonstrated a commitment to disease prevention, efficient care of patients with chronic conditions and patient education. Patient Centered Medical Homes include enhanced access to the practice for its patients, comprehensive services within the practice, “first contact care” for new problems and continuity of care over time by a physician and a health care team.

This pilot received a boost recently when the Legislature enacted Governor John Baldacci’s biennial budget. The budget includes $500,000, eligible for federal matching funds, in support of pilot practices caring for MaineCare patients under the new primary care model.

“I am pleased that the Legislature recognized the value of this investment to make our entire system more efficient and serve Maine people better,” said Gov. Baldacci. “The pilot project will help advance the broad goals of the original Dirigo Health Reform to make affordable, quality health care available to all Mainers and to work to make Maine the healthiest state.”

Practices participating in the pilot include Belgrade Regional Health Center, Belgrade; Blue Hill Family Medicine, Blue Hill; Central Maine Family Practice, Lewiston; the Community Health Center, Southwest Harbor; Court Street Family Practice, Auburn; Dexter Family Practice, Dexter; D.F.D. Russell Medical Center, Leeds; Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Center for Family Medicine, Bangor; Four Seasons Family Practice, Fairfield; Helen Hunt Health Center, Old Town; Husson Internal Medicine, Bangor; Husson Pediatrics, Bangor; Lifespan Family Healthcare, Newcastle; Maine Medical Center Family Medicine Center, Portland; Maine Medical Partners Westbrook Internal Medicine, Westbrook; Maine Medical Partners Westbrook Pediatrics, Westbrook; Mid-Maine Internal Medicine, North Vassalboro; Newport Family Practice, Newport; Penobscot Community Health Center, Bangor; Penobscot Pediatrics, Bangor; Seaport Family Practice, Belfast; Southern Maine Medical Center PrimeCare Physicians, Biddeford; Swift River Health Care, Rumford; Wilson Stream Family Practice, Farmington; Winthrop Family Practice, Winthrop; and Winthrop Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Winthrop.