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‘Medical homes’ appeal to many doctors, patients

Ronald Whitten, a licensed clinical social worker, is excited about the idea of being a patient in a “medical home.’’

A medical home, in this context, is not a residential institution. It’s a physician practice that aims to provide more comprehensive, patient-friendly treatment while also curbing health costs.

Dr. Jennifer Zreloff

Dr. Jennifer Zreloff

Whitten, 70, a retired Emory faculty member who’s on Medicare, is convinced of the medical home’s benefits. He’s a patient of Dr. Jennifer Zreloff, an Emory Clinic internist.

Care for Whitten’s chronic conditions are coordinated under one medical practice, so he doesn’t have to visit several clinicians. Zreloff’s practice also offers the services of a nutritionist and a psychologist. Patients can communicate with a physician via email.

The concept of a patient-centered medical home — which combines the modern-day advantages of computerized medical data with the old-time convenience of having a familiar doctor — is catching on across the country. More primary care practices have started to provide team care, and almost 7,000 have already been recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as patient-centered medical homes.

In Georgia, health insurers such as Aetna, Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and WellCare have launched medical home-style programs. Many seniors and adults under 65 appear to prefer this style of medicine.

Nationally, a recently released survey of adults 65 and older found that medical home services are still relatively uncommon, with just 27 percent reporting receiving this care. Yet 83 percent of those getting this team-based care say it has improved their health. And among those not getting these services, 73 percent would want this type of care, the survey of 1,000 older adults sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation. full story

Sullivan discusses health museum, ACA expansion

The Atlanta-based National Health Museum is still in its early stages, but fund raising is expected to ramp up this year, says Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, the organization’s chairman.

The former U.S. health and human services secretary told health journalists gathering in Denver on Thursday that the central goals of the museum are to improve the health literacy of Americans and promote healthy behavior.

Dr. Louis Sullivan's new autobiography

Dr. Louis Sullivan’s new autobiography

As designed, the museum will have a global online network and digital information hub called the Cyber Museum, and a visitor center at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park called the Experience Museum.

The latter is expected to offer a series of self-guided journeys focused on life, health and the human body.

Sullivan is a founder and was a longtime president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. As a featured speaker at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Denver, he discussed his days as HHS secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

Sullivan criticized Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and other governors who have decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, calling it “the wrong decision.’’ full story

Long-delayed doc pay hike finally arriving

The physician pay hike for Medicaid services is finally beginning to reach Georgia doctors, more than a year after it was intended to take effect.

The three managed care organizations serving the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are sending the extra payments to physicians starting this month, according to a schedule released by the Department of Community Health.

The pay hike was required under the Affordable Care Act, with the goal of paying family physicians, pediatricians and internists the same for Medicaid services as they get under Medicare. full story

DCH conflict-of-interest bill advances

A House panel Thursday approved a bill that targets potential conflicts of interest on the Georgia Department of Community Health board.

The original HB 913 was amended before the vote to make sure medical professionals, such as physicians and dentists, were not precluded from serving on the DCH board, whose nine members are appointed by the governor.

Rep. Trey Kelley

Rep. Trey Kelley

The lead sponsor of the legislation, though, acknowledged Thursday that the bill may affect current DCH board members.

State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) told GHN that “some could be affected” because of their status.

Among people who would be barred from serving are those who have an “ownership interest” in a company that “provides medical staffing services to an entity that is licensed or regulated” by DCH.

At least one current board member would appear to be affected under that wording. Richard Jackson is the chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare in Alpharetta, which provides hospitals with physicians, nurses and allied health professionals. full story

Commentary: Fill the gap in primary care

Georgia faces major hurdles in addressing its shortage of primary care physicians.

Among them is a low cap on Medicare-funded graduate medical education residency slots in the state.

clipboardIn a new GHN Commentary, two health care officials suggest several actions that the Georgia Legislature can take to help erase the primary care deficit.

Denise Kornegay of the Statewide Area Health Education Network and Matt Caseman of the Georgia Rural Health Association write about the need for tax credits to help build the primary care workforce, and for new state funds to create new residency slots in Georgia.

“We must also increase both the number and total monetary amount of loan forgiveness awards available through the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce,’’ Kornegay and Caseman write.

Here is a link to their Commentary.


Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

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