IU embraces medical homes to cut costs

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Indiana University is turning to the medical home concept in its latest attempt to control its rising health care costs.

IU announced Friday a partnership with the Indianapolis-based IU Health hospital system, which will contract with physician offices to function as primary care clinics in Bloomington. The clinics can be visited for no extra charge by IU employees and their dependents who are enrolled in IU’s health plans.

The clinics will offer expanded hours and will take more walk-in patients than typical medical offices. IU Health also plans to use nurse care managers, who will be assigned to patients with chronic diseases in order to guide them through the maze of care they will need to treat their conditions.

Managing chronic diseases is, of course, vital to controlling costs. IU reported that 7 percent of its health beneficiaries have a chronic disease, and those patients account for 70 percent of the more than $180 million the university spends on health benefits each year.

Statewide, IU covers nearly 45,000 people, including full-time employees, retirees, graduate students and their families. The Bloomington initiative will cover 19,000 people.

But IU plans to take the clinic idea to its six other campuses, including Indianapolis, according to IU President Michael McRobbie.

IU’s clinic initiative also will establish an electronic medical records system that will allow access to patient records across the entire network of physicians and nurse care managers.

The four clinics will be in place by the end of the year. A second phase of the Bloomington initiative, launching next year, will tie in primary care physicians in nearby Bedford, Nashville and Spencer.

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