Easley proposes new patient care program

RALEIGH This unique plan will do more than any other in the nation to improve citizens' health, help doctors deliver the quality care they strive for and save hundreds of millions of dollars in medical costs.

"This is going to be a revolutionary approach to the delivery of health care in North Carolina," Easley said. "We have worked with the top medical experts across the state, health insurers and physicians to design a health care delivery system that fits the 21st century needs but also takes advantage of 21st century technology."

For more than a year, the state's major health insurance providers, physicians and hospitals have been meeting under Easley's leadership to design a single set of 'best practice guidelines' to more effectively treat five of the most widespread and costly chronic medical conditions: diabetes; asthma; hypertension; congestive heart failure; and heart attack. Chronic diseases account for 80 percent of health care spending.

"Best-practice guidelines" for care will be implemented of each of these diseases. These guidelines have been developed by experts in the state and the nation and agreed on by the state's medical care providers and insurance companies. The guidelines will be the same, no matter the health coverage for the patient, to ensure consistently high quality of care for all North Carolinians.

North Carolina's Community Care networks of physicians and the Area Health Education Centers' physician training centers will be mobilized to provide the latest and most effective systems to doctors across the state, to assist them in delivering "best practice" care. Every primary care physician in North Carolina will be invited to participate in this program.

Medical professionals will receive tools for patient support, so patients can play a larger role in maintaining and improving their own health. Doctors will also receive specialized computer software that tracks individual patients, their conditions, medications, appointments and various test results.

The plan will develop and expand the availability of "care coordinators," individuals trained in the treatment of chronic diseases who will follow patients' progress, including help in taking appropriate medications, scheduling follow-up appointments, understanding the effect of diet and exercise and generally be available to answer patients' questions.

Finally, a program has been developed to monitor results, so that the goal of improved health and reduced cost can be achieved throughout the state.

"By putting modern systems in place, doctors will be better able to treat chronic diseases including: diabetes, asthma, and common heart problems," Easley said. "With more effective treatment, many patients will be able to avoid more serious and expensive medical problems."

Medical experts praise the program. "This program has the potential to transform the delivery of health care in North Carolina," said Chuck Willson, past president of the N.C. Medical Society. "This is the first time in America that doctors, insurance companies, hospitals and others have come together to implement a system to truly improve medical care."

"Once again, North Carolina is a national leader," said Bill Roper, a physician and CEO of the UNC Health Care System. "In 2007, our Community Care system was honored as the finest health care innovation in America. This program takes us even farther down the road toward the best health care possible."

"Having an evidence-based standard of care will mean every patient in North Carolina has the same opportunity for quality health care," said Bob Greczyn, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield. "It also is important for citizens to take a more active role in their own health care, through increased physical activity that will lead to greater productivity at work and healthier lives."

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