Health Care Industry Targets Physicians for Debt Relief

Primary care physician

Barack Obama touts health care everywhere he goes. Image from Wikimedia.

Barack Obama touts health care everywhere he goes. Image from Wikimedia.

Many consumers are struggling with debt relief because of the huge cost of health care.  Congress has taken the cause up as one of its most pertinent issues to sort out, and President Obama is targeting it as a strong focus throughout his presidency.

Although the topic is much cause for debate among congressional leaders and experts, they all agree that at the center of the issue lies the average health care provider.

Patient-centered medical home

The health care industry has introduced a new term: “patient-centered medical home.”  This refers to the primary location for doctors to care for their patients, normally the doctor’s office.

At a patient-centered medical home, doctors would offer services ranging from flu shots to the management of chronic diseases. They would use the patient-centered medical home as a hub to coordinate care with nurses, pharmacists and specialists.  A study showed that if every patient had a central location for their health care needs, the resulting efficiency could reduce health care costs by 5.6 percent, or $67 billion annually, which would be a possible solution to debt relief for the industry.

The current doctor’s office

Today’s doctor’s office is a far cry from the optimum patient-centered medical home of the future. Research shows that the average patient spends just more than 7 minutes with their primary care physician, who gives superficial answers that focus on symptoms. Often times doctors send patients to chronic care specialists unnecessarily.  Many of these chronic ailments could be managed by the physician if he or she were willing to spend more time with the patient.

Another issue to address is the inefficiency of emergency rooms. Often  patients rush to emergency rooms for immediate care when their physician could realistically handle the issue.  Again, it becomes an issue of time and individualized care by doctors.


The patient-centered medical home is reminiscent of the “gatekeeper” model of the 1990s. Managed-care was set in motion with the primary goal of managing costs.  Today’s model has a new focus: patient care.  Experts are touting that with new digital technologies to help, it is easier than ever for true health care industry reform to happen.

Health care today is known to be “disorganized and wasteful”, according to Dr. Paul H. Grundy, health-care transformationalist for IBM.  He also noted that health care eats up almost 18 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.  Most of the cost is shouldered by the private sector, that covers about 60 percent of the nation’s insured consumers. Grundy added that “employers can drive the medical-home idea as buyers of care.”  He believes that IBM’s Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, a coalition of more than 500 employers, insurers, consumer groups and doctors, can help to transform the industry as a whole and spur debt relief for the consumer.

There are also four large medical societies endorsing the medical-home concept, and beta programs are currently running in several states.  President Obama is also looking to the idea, saying that any health-care initiative should “encourage and provide appropriate payment for providers who implement the medical-home model.”

The optimum model

In Newport, Va., Dr. Peter Anderson is using the medical-home model. One example is his recent patient, 72-year old Gretchen Parker. Parker was diagnosed with diabetes last year and rather than put her on immediate insulin shots or medications, Dr. Anderson took a model approach.

He developed a plan for Parker to lose 55 pounds through diet and exercise. His team worked with her to best model a new lifestyle for the patient. Her blood sugar is now back to normal. This is an example of how the future of health care is going to be developed.

Health care

In the end, physicians are the key to reforming health care.  Though the model involves more detailed care and more time, the resulting efficiencies will be well worth it. If the health care industry can scale back costs and help employers, consumers, insurers and physicians find debt relief, then the changes will be well received.

Other recent posts by bryanh