Health insurer pays for more nurses to save money long term

Geisinger Health System operates a number of clinics and hospitals in Pennsylvania, and also acts as an insurer for 250,000 people. They have been experimenting with innovative approaches to delivering high quality health care at reduced costs. One such experiment is to hire extra nursing staff to provide more help to primary care doctors to take care of the sickest patients and help them from getting sicker.

As an insurer, Geisinger now pays the salaries of extra nurses in doctors’ offices, whose full-time job is to help patients with chronic diseases stay on top of their conditions and, ideally, out of the hospital.  The doctors help hire the nurses, who work closely with the doctors to oversee the patients’ care.

The nurses make sure patients who need quick appointments are squeezed in, and they alert the doctors to any early indications of trouble by keeping in close contact with the patients and looking out for the results of patients’ lab tests.

It’s refreshing to see a health insurance provider, albeit a small one, that understands cutting services in the short term can lead to more expenses in the long term as patients get sicker do to poor health care. I wonder if they would have run this experiment if they didn’t also run clinics and hospitals, which allows them to connect the dots between improved health care and lower insurance claims. Read the full article in the New York Times.

With the current reimbursement model, doctors schedule 15 minutes to see their patients.  In order for patients to maximize their time, Navigating Cancer has created a Prepare for Doctor Visit report that allows patients to record and share symptoms, side effects, medications, and health notes. This free tool prompts patients to think through the questions they want to ask their doctor so they can make the most of their appointments.

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