One promising approach to containing soaring healthcare costs involves providing more primary care. In the medical home model, family doctors have long-term relationships with patients and coordinate their care with specialists. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing saw healthcare spending decline by 20% for a group of employees and dependents with chronic conditions whom it enrolled in a medical home pilot called the Intensive Outpatient Care Project in Puget Sound, Wash. After an initial exam, a medical team devised a care plan for each patient and used office visits, phone calls and e-mails to help patients manage their conditions.

The Boeing savings mostly reflected less spending on hospitalizations and emergency room visits, according to an article in Health Affairs. (Boeing declined to comment.) The project also improved patient outcomes, according to the article, including boosting their physical functioning scores and cutting their sick days by more than half.

A number of health systems and insurers have pilot projects under way, and both the House and Senate healthcare reform measures would provide funding for more pilots. To date, medical home pilots have generally shown savings in the range of 7% to 10%, says Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, a group of employers, insurers, health care providers and others working to develop the medical home approach.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.