Officials at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and in Monmouth County were thrilled to see a pilot wellness initiative led public employees in that county to get more preventive health screenings.
Monmouth County employees who belong to a "patient-centered medical home" (or PCMH) affiliated with Horizon, showed a significant increase in preventive screenings – increases of as much as 33 percent – during the program, which took place from September, 2012, to February, 2013.
A PCMH is a physician practice that focuses on prevention and follow-up.
Al Bowles, vice president of commercial and major accounts for Horizon, said the company and the county worked together.
"(We created) a program to encourage employees to undergo timely health screenings, and also to test how much a patient-centered program can influence engagement," he said. "The results were extraordinary."
County workers who belong to a PCMH had a 33 percent increase in colorectal screenings, compared to a 10 percent increase for non-PCMH members. Overall, county workers had a 13 percent increase in colorectal screening.
For breast cancer screenings, the increase was 23 percent for PCMH members, 3 percent for non-PCMH members and a 9 percent increase overall.
Linda J. Schwimmer, vice president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said a change in procedure should be credited.
"(The PCMH and similar programs) that focus on connecting with the patient are showing success because the healthcare system is finally reaching out and talking to patients and their caregivers," she said.
"Healthcare reform is not just about getting people an insurance card. That is an important start, but people need help connecting to their physicians and other providers. They also need to be able to discuss their issues and have providers that take the time to understand their needs and address them together. It is great that Monmouth County is investing in these types of programs for their employees."
During the program, all Monmouth County employees received educational materials, incentives and rewards to encourage them and their families to undergo health and wellness screenings
For several years, Horizon has been leading an effort with physicians and hospitals to change the delivery of health care to focus on the quality rather than the quantity of care.
"This initiative demonstrates how positive health outcomes result when an employer group, its insurer, doctors, nurses and patients all get engaged in health and wellness," Monmouth County Freeholder Gary J. Rich, Sr. said. "These results underscore the importance of early detection and prevention for our employees, which is key to managing personal health and helping the county keep health care costs under control."
Dr. Anthony DeLuca of Partners of Freedom in Wall and Howell, one of the Horizon PCMH practices, has been pleased.
"Patient satisfaction and outcomes have improved with our concentration on prevention, care coordination and quality improvement," he said.
This pilot program was offered to all Monmouth County employees and retirees covered by Horizon; about 530 and their dependents participated.